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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 1°C
Mark Lennihan/Press Association Images

Denis O'Brien: Apple was 'picked on' by EU over record €13bn fine

The businessman said that Apple should not be punished over its tax affairs in Ireland.

IRISH BUSINESSMAN DENIS O’Brien has claimed that EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager ‘picked on’ Apple after the organisation handed out a huge fine to the company.

In an interview with Bloomberg television, the billionaire, one of Ireland’s wealthiest and most powerful people, said that the tech giant should not be punished over its tax affairs in Ireland.

“Apple played by the rules, there was no special arrangement, it was Apple going by the rules that were set there,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg in New York today.

“Brussels is out of control in terms of the federalism agenda.”

“They (Apple) employ 6,000 people in Cork so they’ve been a good long-term investor in Ireland.”

He added that Vestager, the anti-trust commissioner who was the public face of the EU’s probe into Apple, was singling out the company.

“Vestager just picked on them because they are one of the biggest brands and most valuable companies in the world and said ‘we’re going to try something here (and) I don’t believe it’s going to succeed.”

O’Brien is the founder and owner of mobile phone network provider Digicel and also has various media interests in Ireland, such as his large shareholding in Independent News and Media.

HAITI DIGICEL AP / Press Association Images denis O'Brien is the founder of Digicel AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

He added that Europe is “not a great place to invest in at the moment”, although he singled out Ireland for an exception.

“Ireland is the shining light, we’ve made a fantastic recovery from the banking crisis,” he said.

Despite Brexit, I think it puts the (focus) back on Ireland as a great place to invest because it’s the only English-speaking country in Europe and you have a highly trained workforce and proper governance.

Landmark ruling

Several weeks ago the European Commission ruled that Ireland gave Apple illegal state aid worth up to €13 billion over a period of more than a decade.

The government has been ordered to recover the funds – plus interest – from the Californian firm.

However it could be years before the money is made available with appeals against the ruling from both Ireland and Apple expected to drag on in the courts.

The government, which recently won a Dáil motion to appeal the ruling, claims it did not do any deal with Apple and that the ruling, if enforced, would damage the country’s reputation.

Several other EU countries, including Spain, Austria and Italy, have signalled that they intend to ask for a share of the €13 billion Apple has been ordered to pay.

This is something that the Irish government has taken issue with, complaining that it is effectively being asked to collect taxes on behalf of other EU countries.

The news also follows recent reports that an Apple iTunes unit in Japan was ordered to pay back over €100 million in taxes over income that was sent to Ireland.

Written by Paul O’Donoghue and posted on

Read: “He’s my boy”: Usain Bolt describes friendship with Denis O’Brien

Denis O’Brien: ‘The government was wrong to back down on Irish Water’

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