On Thursday 23 November, the Court of Cassation of Luxembourg will hold a hearing on the appeal of Antoine Deltour, the whistleblower who revealed aggressive tax avoidance schemes in Luxembourg by sharing the 'LuxLeaks' documents with journalists in 2014.
Deltour shone a light on so-called 'sweetheart deals' between the Luxembourg government and some 340 companies, including Apple, Amazon, Ikea, Pepsi and Deutsche Bank. Some of the companies had managed to secure tax rates of less than one per cent on their profits by registering their businesses in the Grand Duchy.
The LuxLeaks disclosures helped spur the Luxembourg government, the European Commission, the OECD and the G20 to take action to fight tax avoidance. For showing journalists the proof of these deals, however, Deltour was charged and convicted of theft, fraudulent access to a computer system, laundering acquired data, and violating professional secrecy and trade secrets.
In a later appeal, the courts recognised Deltour's role as a whistleblower, and that his revelations were in the public interest. He was acquitted of violating professional secrecy and trade secrets, but still received a suspended 6-month prison sentence and fine of €1,500 for the other charges.
Now, the High Court is examining the legal basis for that decision. Unfortunately, though, even if the court decides in Antoine's favour he would simply return to a lower court to be tried again - his long and costly legal battle is far from over.
Ironically, even while being tried and convicted in Luxembourg, Deltour has been celebrated by the European Union. In 2015, he was awarded the European Citizens' Prize – an award given to those who promote mutual understanding and European values.
His case could have been avoided had comprehensive whistleblower protection been passed across the EU and properly implemented at the national level. That's exactly what Transparency International are campaigning for, because individuals must be able to speak out against wrongdoing if corruption is to be tackled. More and more EU countries are adopting whistleblower protection legalislation (such as Italy), but others are still lagging behind (such as Poland). Last week, we handed EU law-makers in Brussels a petition signed by tens of thousands of citizens who believe in protecting the right to speak out.
Will the highest court in Luxembourg at least recognise that whistleblowers are not thieves? We'll find out soon.
Supporters of Antoine Deltour have set up a support committee to help him and other whistleblowers like him. If you would like to get involved, find out more here.
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