The law firm Clifford Chance and the Luxembourg Bar Association have won a landmark victory against the national tax authorities in an emblematic case concerning lawyer-client privilege.
The courts have once again been called upon to rule on a dispute between lawyers and the tax authority attached to the Ministry of Finance (Administration des Contributions Directes). At the heart of their dispute: lawyer-client privilege. "It's not the lawyer's privilege but the client's privilege, " explains Pit Reckinger, President of the Luxembourg Bar Association. This confidentiality applies to all exchanges, both written and oral, between a lawyer and his or her client. "Confidentiality serves to establish a relationship of trust between the client and his lawyer so that the client can be defended to the best of his ability, " continues Reckinger. "It would be unthinkable for a client to say things to his lawyer that could later be used against him. In that sense, secrecy is part of the independent and democratic justice we enjoy today."
It is no coincidence that the Bar President is the only person to have agreed to comment on this case – and only – to explain the context and the issues involved. Clifford Chance does not wish to comment on an ongoing case and has asked its lawyer, the eminent tax expert Jean Schaffner, to do likewise, which has also resulted in the silence of the Bar Association's lawyers, Alain Steichen – another leading figure in Luxembourg tax law – and Pol Mellina. The same restraint was shown by the Ministry responsible for the national tax administration: "As the procedure is still underway, the Ministry of Finance cannot take a position at present."
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