Washington DC, London, Dublin, 29 June 2016
The Whistleblowing International Network (WIN), a coalition of organisations supporting whistleblowers worldwide, has expressed its dismay at the conviction of the ‘LuxLeaks’ whistleblowers Antoine Deltour and Raphaël Halet. The Luxembourg’s court’s verdict was announced today. The two former employees of PricewaterhouseCoopers Luxembourg were found guilty of data theft and breach of commercial confidentiality when exposing potential abuses of Luxembourg’s tax system.
Deltour and Halet received suspended sentences of 12 and 9 months and fines of €1,500 and €1,000 respectively. Their co-accused, investigative journalist Édouard Perrin was acquitted.
‘This is a dark day for truth-telling in Europe’ said Anna Myers, Co-Chair of WIN and Executive Director of the Government Accountability Project in Washington DC.
‘Deltour and Halet acted in the public interest. The conviction sends out the message that the commercial interests of PricewaterhouseCoopers Luxembourg and its clients are more important than the public’s right to know about potential abuses of EU tax systems’, she added.
WIN condemned the prosecution, which it said caused needless suffering for the three men and set a very negative precedent for whistleblowers and investigative journalists across the EU. It has been argued that the prosecution will also have a chilling effect on other whistleblowers and witnesses of impropriety by making it clear that breaches of confidence will be met with the prospect of significant financial losses and imprisonment. In addition, WIN believes that the prosecution will deter many journalists from reporting on important issues for fear of facing prosecution.
‘Deltour and Halet’s disclosures were consistent with international principles and standards that inform a growing body of national whistleblowing laws. There was also no evidence to suggest that they acted untruthfully. Their disclosures were clearly in the public interest. What’s more, they never sought to profit from his disclosures. There was no valid reason for prosecuting the whistleblowers in the first place’, said Cathy James, Chief Executive of Public Concern at Work.
WIN has urged the Luxembourg and other European government/s to introduce legal safeguards for whistleblowers and journalists that report concerns similar to those exposed by Deltour, Halet and Perrin. It has also urged employers to introduce whistleblowing policies that will assure other whistleblowers that they will not face legal action for speaking up in the public interest – even when they breach commercial confidentiality or their contractual obligations.
Mr Deltour’s actions have been recognised by the European Parliament which has awarded him the European Citizens Prize 2015. Deltour, Halet and Perrin’s reports have also led to European Commission investigations into unlawful Luxembourg tax rulings; and have set in motion unprecedented inter-governmental dialogue on the need to promote greater fiscal and corporate transparency worldwide. Luxembourg’s Deputy Public Prosecutor admitted that the LuxLeaks whistleblowers had reported “certain doubtful practices”, while former Luxembourg Prime Minister and current President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker conceded that the revelations may have exposed breaches of ‘ethical and moral standards’. Separate reports suggested that tax deals were being agreed before being adequately scrutinised by the Luxembourg tax authorities.
The Whistleblowing International Network’s members include: Transparency International Ireland, Ireland; WB, Czech Republic, Czech Republic; Accion Ciudadana, Guatemala; Transparency Estonia, Estonia; Government Accountability Project, United States of America; Public Concern at Work, United Kingdom; Whistleblower-Network, Germany; Open Democracy Advice Centre, South Africa; Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform, Canada; Whistleblowing Austria, Austria; Information Clearinghouse Japan, Japan; Pistaljka (“The Whistle”), Serbia.
Antoine Deltour has also been a client of the Government Accountability Project.