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Stolen money survey unanswered due to Covid-19, says minister
Luxembourg’s government has not yet responded to a World Bank survey – initially issued almost 18 months ago – on stolen funds hidden in the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Justice Minister Sam Tanson said on Thursday.
The failure to provide answers to the World Bank survey comes as Luxembourg struggles to shake off a reputation for a lack of transparency following successive reports that the country is a haven for those wishing to hide money.
The minister was responding to a written parliamentary question brought by Christian Democrats (CSV) deputy Laurent Mosar after an article in The Luxembourg Times last month revealed the country had still not provided any information to the World Bank, which had asked states across the globe to update it on progress in efforts to recover stolen funds in April 2020.
"Given the context of the sanitary crisis, the questionnaire was unable to be completed in due time, something which was communicated to the organisation (World Bank),” Tanson said.
Asselborn refuses to provide EU headcount after ECA letter
Foreign minister Jean Asselborn has refused to provide a detailed headcount of EU institution staff in Luxembourg to support his claim that their numbers are on the rise in the country, after the bloc's budget watchdog expressed concerns that the Grand Duchy's high cost of living is deterring potential recruits.
Following an article in The Luxembourg Times in August - which revealed a letter from the European Court of Auditors (ECA) to the European Commission about the "palpable" difficulties in attracting staff - Luxembourg's main opposition party, the centre-right CSV, had demanded to know which EU institutions have ramped up their number of employees.
European institutions in Luxembourg have been struggling for years to attract staff because workers are better off if they do the same job in Brussels, where they receive the same salary.
Back in July, the foreign minister had claimed the number of EU civil servants in Luxembourg had "considerably increased" over the past five years - to 14,000 last year from around 12,000 in 2015, prompting the CSV to ask for a detailed headcount in the wake of the ECA letter published in The Luxembourg Times.
Private security in capital under further scrutiny after dog attack
The controversy surrounding Luxembourg City's use of private security firms to patrol the streets of the capital attracted renewed criticism after a guard dog reportedly bit a member of the public on Saturday, exposing a row between local and national authorities over responsibilities for policing the city.
The incident led lawmakers to hit out at City Mayor Lydie Polfer's decision last year to employ private security firms to patrol the streets in response to long-standing complaints about drug-trafficking and prostitution around the capital city's main train station.
There is no legal basis for private security firms to patrol the streets or to maintain public order, Justice Minister Sam Tanson and Minister for Internal Security Henri Kox said in response to a parliamentary question in March.
However, this did not stop Polfer from signing a new contract with a private security firm in May. She has been at odds with Kox over police shortages, demanding more officers on the streets of the capital to fight drug dealers and thieves.
Gramegna defends tax letters targeting undeclared foreign income
Luxembourg’s tax authority is acting well within its rights when it sends letters to residents stating that it suspects they have potential undeclared foreign income, Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna has said, despite the country struggling to shake off its own reputation as a tax haven.
Such correspondence, issued by the country’s Inland Revenue, L'Administration des contributions directes (ACD), is entirely legitimate as “part of the tax investigation procedure”, Gramegna said on Tuesday in response to a written parliamentary question from Social Democrats (CSV) deputy Gilles Roth.
Roth questioned whether there is a legal basis for the letters and whether they should be considered appropriate, saying that they contain a direct accusation that people are not declaring foreign income.
Call to amend Luxembourg citizenship language test falls short
A public petition calling on the government to drop the requirement for proficiency in the Luxembourgish language as a pre-requisite for citizenship has failed to obtain enough support to be debated in parliament.
Deputies are required to discuss any petition that gathers at least 4,500 signatures within a period of 42 days, with some proposals becoming law as a result.
The petition had urged the government to remove the current obligation for applicants for citizenship to pass an exam in Luxembourgish.
Campaigners argued that candidates should be allowed the choice of taking the exam in French or German instead, the other two official languages in Luxembourg. However, the petition closed late on Thursday night with just over 3,700 signatures, falling short of the threshold needed to progress.