How Volkswagen stashed billions of euros in Luxembourg scheme

By and Martin Hesse, Simon Hage (Der Spiegel) et Blaz Zgaga

Between 2014 and 2016, German carmaker Volkswagen placed 5.8 billion euros into a financial structure, run by a staff of five, it registered in Luxembourg, and which paid just 1.7 million euros in taxes on the sum. It is one example of an elaborate system of ‘tax optimisation’ created by the giant group in 2012, despite assurances by its supervisory board chairman, Hans Dieter Pötsch, when he was financial director, that “we have never played such games”. Yann Philippin, Martin Hesse, Simon Hage and Blaz Zgaga report.

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In early 2013, Hans Dieter Pötsch, then head of finance for the Volkswagen Group, was asked by German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung about the practices of some multinational corporations of establishing financial structures, such as those based in Luxembourg, that allow them to avoid paying taxes in countries where they operate. "For Volkswagen, let me be extremely clear, we have never played such games," he told the paper.