The European Commission’s image problem just got worse. A massive leak of information from the Bahamas corporate registry has raised questions about the business interests of former E.U. official Neelie Kroes during her tenure as anti-trust commissioner.
The leak has revealed that Ms. Kroes was the chairwoman of an offshore company called Mint Holdings Limited during part of her tenure as anti-trust commissioner. But the Dutch politician failed to declare her involvement in the company in accordance with E.U. ethics rules.
Ms. Kroes served on the European Commission from 2004 until 2014, first as the anti-trust commissioner and then as the digital commissioner. According to the leaked documents, she held the directorship of Mint Holdings Limited from 2000 until 2009.
“Neelie Kroes is an incredibly negative example for the damaged trust in politics.”
The leaked documents are among a data cache of 1.3 million files obtained from the Bahamas corporate registry by the daily Süddeustche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The files include information on 175,000 shell companies from 1990 until 2016.
Ms. Kroes has admitted through her lawyer that she held the directorship of Mint Holding and has promised to take full responsibility for her failure to declare the position, which she described as an “oversight.” Her lawyer said she acted in good faith because she thought the offshore company had been dissolved in 2002.
Ms. Kroes has informed European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and the commission is reviewing the information, said a spokesperson for the commission. Ms. Kroes could lose her pension and other benefits if she is found to have violated ethics rules.
“Neelie Kroes is an incredibly negative example for the damaged trust in politics,” said Sven Giegold, member of the Green Party in the European Parliament.
Mint Holding was founded to acquire assets from the now defunct U.S. energy company Enron, Ms. Kroes’ lawyer said, but the negotiations were broken off in 2000. Ms. Kroes was recruited to advise Mint Holding by Jordanian businessman Amin Badr-El-Din.
Mr. Badr-El-Din has negotiated weapons deals for the United Arab Emirates with Lockheed Martin. Ms. Kroes worked for the U.S. arms company before she became an E.U. commissioner. Mr. Badr-El-Din and Ms. Kroes have been friends for many years, her lawyer said.
Mr. Badr-El-Din has said it was a typographical error that Ms. Kroes was listed as a director of Mint Holding after 2002.
The revelations about Ms. Kroes threaten to further undermine public confidence in the European Commission, which is already facing a populist, euro-skeptic backlash in the wake of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.
The business ties of commission officials are under increased public scrutiny after Jose Manuel Barroso, a former president of the E.U. executive body, took a job as chairman of Goldman Sachs International. Mr. Juncker, the commission’s current president, said Mr. Barroso would be treated as a lobbyist and not as a former president.
Till Hoppe is Handelsblatt’s foreign policy correspondent based in Berlin. To contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org