LUXEMBOURG, Sept 16 (Reuters) - EU competition regulators
secured a big win on Thursday when Europe's top court backed
their crackdown on Belgium's 700-million-euro ($825-million) tax
scheme for Magnetrol, BP and more than 30 other
European competition chief Margrethe Vestager launched a
fight against sweetheart tax deals nearly a decade ago. She has
won three cases at a lower tribunal but lost two, including an
order to iPhone maker Apple to pay 13 billion euros ($15.3
billion) in Irish back taxes which was dismissed by the tribunal
The European Union executive, the European Commission,
ordered Belgium in 2016 to recover some 700 million euros from
companies which benefited from the scheme. These included U.S.
manufacturer Magnetrol, oil company BP, chemical producer BASF
, Wabco, Cellio, Atlas Copco and Belgacom,
The EU competition watchdog said the series of tax rulings
given to the companies constituted an aid scheme.
The EU Court of Justice (CJEU) agreed with the Commission's
arguments, saying the General Court, which in 2019 annulled the
Commission's decision, had made several legal errors.
"The Commission correctly found that there was an aid
scheme," judges said.
They said the regulator's sample of 22 tax rulings from a
total of 66 was enough to show a systematic approach by Belgian
The final verdict in the case will still take some time,
said Koen Platteau, a partner at law firm Simmons + Simmons.
"This is not the end of the judicial review process since
the case is now referred back to the General Court which will
have to decide on the other arguments invoked by Belgium,
including on the existence of state aid," he said.
Judges referred the case back to the lower tribunal, telling
it to examine whether the scheme can be classified as state aid
and whether regulators were correct to order the recovery of the
Following the General Court ruling, the Commission in 2019
opened separate investigations into 39 companies which benefited
from the Belgian tax rulings while also appealing the judgment.
Other ongoing EU cases include Ikea and Nike's Dutch
tax affairs and Luxembourg's tax treatment of Finnish company
The case is C-337/19 P Commission v Belgium and Magnetrol
($1 = 0.8482 euros)
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee and Marine Strauss; Editing by
Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Timothy Heritage)