Behind the chainmail curtains: Wacky interiors, tax breaks and big profits at Dublin headquarters of tech giant

The Google headquarters complex in Dublin is home to 6,000 employees, complete with a conference room set inside a giant fake tree, curtains made of chainmail, and an entire floor carpeted in a layer of fake grass. (Photo courtesy of Google)
Updated 07 November 2017
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Behind the chainmail curtains: Wacky interiors, tax breaks and big profits at Dublin headquarters of tech giant

The headquarters for Google in Europe, the Middle East and Africa is something else. A multi-hued complex with themed floors and wacky spaces – there is even a 25-meter swimming pool. That alone is enough to make you question previous career choices.
Home to 6,000 employees, the Dublin offices don’t look like a working environment at all. There’s a tiny conference room set inside a giant fake tree, curtains made of chainmail, and an entire floor carpeted in a layer of fake grass.
There are swings and reclining chairs, informal meeting rooms and alternative working zones. They have names such as The Forge and The Lab, and there’s even The Store, which sells everything from Google stationery to the latest merchandise. Here and there are communication hubs with micro-kitchens and gaming zones. Oh, and don’t forget the Soda Lab and the five restaurants, the largest of which can fit 1,000 people.
Traveling between the three main buildings (Gasworks House, Gordon House and the newly constructed Google Docks) involves walking across a glass hyperlink bridge, with Google Docks — at 14 storys — the tallest commercial building in Dublin. With panoramic views of the city below, you can see all of Dublin’s “Silicon Docks”, which are also home to the European headquarters of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
None of them would arguably be here, of course, if it weren’t for Ireland’s favorable tax laws, which have helped attract the world’s largest tech companies to Dublin.
The country’s low corporate tax rate (12.5 percent), which can be lowered even further by financial engineering, has fueled this tech and social media invasion. But not without controversy.
In January last year, Google agreed to pay £130 million in back taxes to the UK government following an open audit of its accounts. It stood accused, along with other multinational companies, of avoiding paying tax via complex international tax structures, in spite of making billions of pounds of sales in the UK.
Then there’s the EU. According to a report released in September by EU lawmaker Paul Tang, the bloc lost €5.4 billion in tax revenues from Google and Facebook between 2013 and 2015.
“Large digital platforms operate as a single unit in the EU internal market, but face a patchwork of tax jurisdictions competing for profits,” wrote Tang in the report, EU Tax Revenue Loss from Google and Facebook. “This enables them to minimize the overall tax burden in the EU by routing all revenues to low-tax member states such as Ireland and Luxembourg. Hence, the other member states are very likely being deprived of billions of euros of tax revenues.”
It’s a situation the EU is determined to counter. In September the European Commission said it was looking at ways to gather a larger amount of tax from companies such as Google and Facebook, which capitalize on their lack of office space in European countries to book their profits in low-tax states.
It is a strategy that could backfire, with the American Chamber of Commerce stating that plans to raise more tax revenue from the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon would make Europe less attractive to investors.
What this would mean for Google’s Irish dream, remains to be seen.


Reuters reporter says Myanmar police planted “secret” papers

Updated 32 min 30 sec ago
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Reuters reporter says Myanmar police planted “secret” papers

  • Wa Lone told court he had followed journalistic ethics in his reporting of a massacre of Rohingya Muslims last year

YANGON: A jailed Reuters reporter told a court in Myanmar on Monday that documents he is accused of breaking state secrets laws to obtain were planted by a police officer, who handed him papers he had not sought in order to entrap him. The officer had then lied to the court about what happened, he said.
Wa Lone, 32, who began giving evidence last week at the court in northern Yangon, also said under questioning by prosecutors that he had followed journalistic ethics in his reporting of a massacre of Rohingya Muslims last year.
Wa Lone and Reuters colleague Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, are on trial on charges brought under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act, in a case seen as a test of press freedom in Myanmar. Both have pleaded not guilty. If convicted, they face up to 14 years in prison.
As his hours-long cross-examination continued on Monday, Wa Lone repeatedly stated that the reporters were framed by police who handed them papers “without asking” minutes before they were arrested on Dec. 12.
Lead prosecutor Kyaw Min Aung questioned Wa Lone about the documents, asking whether the reporter believed their contents could be damaging to the state if given to insurgents, and why he was arrested with the documents.
Wa Lone said he had not reviewed the documents properly before he was arrested, so could not speak about their contents. He repeatedly said he had not violated Myanmar media law.
“The documents found in my hands were given by Police Lance Corporal Naing Lin to set us up and arrest us,” Wa Lone told the court.
Naing Lin testified during pre-trial hearings that he met the reporters at a restaurant on Dec. 12, but said that he did not hand them anything. Wa Lone told the court on Monday that Naing Lin had given false testimony.
Prosecutor Kyaw Min Aung declined to comment at the end of the day’s proceedings.
Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay has declined to answer questions on the proceedings, saying Myanmar’s courts are independent and the case would be conducted according to the law. He did not answer calls seeking comment on Monday.
Kyaw Soe Oo began testifying on Monday afternoon shortly before Judge Ye Lwin adjourned proceedings for the day. The trial continues on Tuesday.

“DUTIFUL REPORTERS“
At the time of their arrest, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo had been working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys in the village of Inn Din in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State.
The killings took place during a military crackdown that United Nations officials have said constituted ethnic cleansing. More than 700,000 Rohingya fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh last year, according to UN agencies.
Wa Lone testified last week that police deprived him of sleep and transported him hooded to an interrogation site after his arrest. Police questioning centered on the reporting of the massacre, not on the allegedly secret state documents, he said.
After Monday’s hearing Wa Lone told reporters that he felt duty-bound to report the killings and other violations by security forces that he and Kyaw Soe Oo had uncovered in Inn Din.
“We wouldn’t be dutiful as reporters if we ignored these violations of the law. We covered the Rakhine issue, and because of that we have been facing trial for months and facing these troubles,” he said.
Prosecutor Kyaw Min Aung also questioned Wa Lone on Monday about his ties to Police Captain Moe Yan Naing, who in April testified that a senior police officer had ordered subordinates, including Lance Corporal Naing Lin, to trap Wa Lone. The reporter said he had only come to know the police captain in the course of his reporting on Inn Din, where Moe Yan Naing served in a position of responsibility.
Diplomats from several Western countries attended Monday’s hearing, alongside friends and family of the accused, including Wa Lone’s pregnant wife, Pan Ei Mon, and Kyaw Soe Oo’s daughter Moe Thin Wai Zan, who turned three on Sunday. As her father was being bundled into a police truck after the hearing, Moe Thin Wai Zan cried “papa, papa!“
The embassy of Denmark called for the two reporters to be released immediately. “Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are brave men who deserve praise and admiration for their brave work,” the embassy said in a statement.