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Apple slams EU as epic court battle over tax bill begins

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Apple went on the offensive against Brussels in an EU court on Tuesday, fighting the European Commission’s landmark order that the iPhone-maker reimburse Ireland 13 billion euros ($14 billion) in back taxes.

The EU’s tax demand, delivered in 2016, “defies reality and common sense,” Apple’s lawyer Daniel Beard told the EU’s lower General Court.

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The commission’s “conclusion… is wrong,” he added.

The commission’s historic decision was delivered in August 2016 by Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, a shock decision that put Europe at the forefront of an emerging effort to rein in the power of US big tech.

Lawyers for the world’s biggest company faced EU officials in the Luxembourg court, challenging a decision that CEO Tim Cook slammed at the time as “total political crap”.

Ireland, which is similarly appealing against the decision, also testified at the start of two days of hearings, and lashed out at the EU’s “astonishing” interpretation of tax law.

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“The Commission decision simply ignores Irish laws,” Ireland’s representative Maurice Collins told judges.

The EU accuses Apple of parking untaxed revenue earned in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and India in Ireland, which has become a European hub for US-based big tech.

This privilege allegedly gave Apple an advantage over other companies, allowing it to avoid taxes between 2003 and 2014 of around 13 billion euros which, according to Brussels, constituted illegal “state aid” by Ireland.

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The judges are not expected to hand down their decision before 2020 and any appeal would then go the EU’s highest court, the European Court of Justice, for a final ruling that could land as late as 2021.

– ‘Rewrite history’ –

Apple fiercely denies the tax bill. The US government also insists the order by Brussels constitutes a major breach of international tax law.

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“The European Commission has tried to rewrite Apple’s history in Europe, to ignore Ireland’s tax laws and, in doing so, to disrupt the international tax system,” Tim Cook said in an open letter in 2016.

The group insists that it is in the United States, where the company invests in research and development and thus creates wealth, that it must pay taxes on the revenue in question.

This became possible after a major tax overhaul in the US at the end of 2017 that allowed Apple to repatriate profits made abroad. Apple has promised to pay Washington a tax bill of $37 billion, in addition to the taxes already paid in the United States.

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The two days of hearings are taking place in a tense trade context between the EU and the United States where President Donald Trump accuses Europeans of deliberately attacking American technology giants.

The EU’s Competition supremo, Vestager, is in particular accused by the US president of “hating” the US. He has slammed her as the “tax lady” because of the investigations and heavy fines imposed on US groups such as Google.

Pending the conclusion of the case, Apple has blocked the funds in an escrow account: a total of 14.3 billion euros after interest.

The group, which has been present in Ireland since the 1980s, employs around 6,000 people in Cork, the country’s second-largest city.

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The first indications of how the Apple case may finish will come as early as September 24 when the same EU court will rule on whether the Vestager was right to demand unpaid taxes from Starbucks and a unit of Fiat Chrysler.


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‘Stand with Hong Kong’ shirts fill the stands at Nets game as NBA is protested for China subservience

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The National Basketball Association was protested on Friday for bowing to pressure from China.

The NBA has been harshly criticized for standing by the oppressive regime instead of standing in solidarity with the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

"Producer and activist Andrew Duncan bought 300 tickets to tonight's Nets vs Raptors game and is hosting hundreds of Chinese pro-Democracy activists to protest the NBA," New York magazine correspondent Yashar Ali reported Friday. "They're all wearing 'Stand With Hong Kong' T-shirts."

Photos from the protest:

1. Producer and activist Andrew Duncan bought 300 tickets to tonight's Nets vs Raptors game and is hosting hundreds of Chinese pro-Democracy activists to protest the NBA.

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Trump polling close friends over whether he should fire Mulvaney: report

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President Donald Trump is considering firing Mick Mulvaney, his acting White House chief of staff and director of the Office of Management and Budget, The Atlantic reported Friday.

"Mick Mulvaney's job was in danger even before his disastrous press conference yesterday, and his equally disastrous attempt to walk that performance back," The Atlantic reported. "The fumble could not have been more poorly timed: According to multiple current and former White House officials, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to relay private conversations, Trump has been steadily souring on Mulvaney for weeks."

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Michael Moore predicts Mick Mulvaney will get into Heaven after confessing Trump’s quid pro quo

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Academy Award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore predicted acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney will ascend to Heaven in the afterlife during a Friday interview on MSNBC's "The Beat" with Ari Melber.

The host played a clip of Mulvaney admitting Trump's quid pro quo while seeking foreign election assistance from Ukraine.

"This man obviously is going to be admitted into Heaven," Moore said. "You know, he told the truth."

"If there was a movie version of this, somebody stuck him with a needle just before he walked out onto the stage there, a truth serum needle, and he just went on and on saying, 'Yeah, that’s what we do. Yeah, of course.' Essentially admitting there is a quid pro quo. In fact, there are many quid pro quos."

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