Luxembourgh Times
Top five

Top five stories you may have missed

In case you missed them, the Luxembourg Times has selected the best stories of the week for you

The Luxembourg District Court, the scene of the legal battle between the Berkeley Research Group and private equity firm Novalpina

The Luxembourg District Court, the scene of the legal battle between the Berkeley Research Group and private equity firm Novalpina © Photo credit: Chris Karaba

Source: Redaktion

Novalpina fails to wrest back control of fund behind NSO

The Berkeley Research Group (BRG) will stay in control of the €1 billion fund that controls controversial spyware firm NSO, trumping private equity firm Novalpina, which had asked for BRG's ouster for a Luxembourg court.

Novalpina had asked the Luxembourg district court to be reinstated at the helm of the fund that owns 70% of NSO, after investors had stripped the private equity firm of its management role at the helm of the fund in the wake of a scandal over the Pegasus spyware that NSO is best known for.

London-based Novalpina had also asked the judge to suspend all decisions BRG had taken since it was put in control in August of last year, according to court documents in the civil proceedings, seen by The Luxembourg Times.

But the court dismissed the demands, saying "we declare the demand admissible, but unfounded," according to an anonymised one-page document the court provided when asked about the case.

More family photos than numbers in Grand Duke's first report

A hotly anticipated look into Luxembourg's royal court offered a wealth of snapshots but fewer financial insights after a 2020 report accused the centuries-old institution of staff mismanagement, instilling a culture of fear, and a lack of openness about spending.

Just under half of the 132 pages of the court's first-ever annual report - which came out on Thursday - showed Luxembourg's head of state and his family shaking hands with foreign dignitaries, visiting care homes, vaccination centres and a brewery, as well as snapshots of the newborn Prince Charles.

Just 20 pages of the report dealt with the finances of the royal household, showing Luxembourg's monarchy cost taxpayers €12 million in 2021, more than 40% less than the €21.4 million budget it had been allocated.

Tourists stay away from pumps as Luxembourg loses edge

Fewer drivers take a detour to fill up their tanks with cheap fuel in Luxembourg, pump operators have said, after Germany cut fuel taxes to help consumers cope with soaring energy prices.

One day last week, there was little custom for the dozen or so petrol stations lining the main street in Wasserbillig, a village just across the border with Germany that is normally heaving with cars with German licence plates.

Petrol and diesel now cost €1.97 and €1.98 per litre respectively in Luxembourg, pretty much the same as in Germany. In some cases, petrol is even a few cents cheaper in Luxembourg's eastern neighbour.

“At the moment, you save almost nothing if you fill up in Luxembourg,” said Ralf Seifert from nearby Trier, as he filled up his red convertible.

Harsher punishment for race crimes in Luxembourg

Luxembourg is planning to mete out tougher punishments for crimes in which race, religion or sexual orientation played a role, Justice Minister Sam Tanson said on Wednesday, after the EU threatened legal action and the UN criticised the Grand Duchy for its current practices.

The government presented the legal reform - which list criteria including disabilities and trade union membership as aggravating factors to a crime - to parliament’s Justice Committee on Wednesday. Courts will need to take them into account to justify harsher penalties, Tanson said.

The bill, which is yet to be approved by parliament, addresses issues raised by the European Commission, which last year launched infringement proceedings against Luxembourg for failing “to take the necessary measures to ensure racist and xenophobic hate crimes are effectively criminalised”.

Luxembourg to double defence spending by 2028

Luxembourg is set to increase its annual defence spending to 1% of the size of its economy by 2028 - or close to €1 billion - in the wake of Russia's deadly invasion of Ukraine in February.

"Given the changed security situation in Europe [...] we want to be a reliable partner", Defence Minister François Bausch told media on Friday.

Luxembourg is planning to spend €994 million by 2028 based on current economic forecasts, nearly twice as much as €573 million next year and five times as much as in 2014, the year NATO leaders pledged to spend 2% of the size of their economies on the military.

But even with the drastic acceleration in military spending, Luxembourg would fall well short of the NATO goal, with the budgeted expenditure reaching only 1% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).