Transparency International demands that whistleblowers should be protected from retaliation, including prosecution. Antoine Deltour, the whistleblower who revealed secret tax rulings between the Luxembourg authorities and multinationals that led to the so-called “LuxLeaks”, is on trial starting tomorrow.
The trial stems from a complaint brought by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Deltour’s former employer.
“Deltour should be protected and commended, not prosecuted. The information he disclosed was in the public interest,” said Cobus de Swardt, Managing Director of Transparency International. “Therefore, we have asked PwC Luxembourg to withdraw their complaints.”
Transparency International advocates for the protection of whistleblowers like Deltour because they play a critical role in fighting corruption and other malpractice. Too often they pay a high price: whistleblowers may lose their jobs or are prosecuted, even if their disclosure benefits the public interest. Strong whistleblower protection legislation must be in place.
Most European countries do not have whistleblower protection laws and if they do, as in Luxembourg, they are often inadequate. Under the Luxembourg law, Deltour is not considered a whistleblower because the legislation is limited to corruption offences. In addition, it only protects whistleblowers against dismissal, not against prosecution. Therefore, Luxembourg should revise its legal framework.
Similar to the Panama Papers, Deltour’s disclosures brought the issue of corporate tax avoidance to public attention and transformed the debate on international tax reform. His disclosures contributed to the development of measures to fight tax avoidance by the Luxembourg government, the European Commission, the OECD and the G20.
Despite this, Deltour faces charges of theft, violating Luxembourg’s professional secrecy laws, violation of trade secrets, and illegally accessing a database. If found guilty he faces up to ten years in jail and a fine of up to €1,250,000 (US$ 1.4 million). Nearly 125,000 people have already signed a petition in support of Deltour.
Transparency International supports Deltour and Raphael Halet, also a former employee of PwC, who faces similar charges. Halet remained anonymous until last week. Many whistleblowers do not disclose their identity in order to protect themselves from retaliation. Therefore, Transparency International advocates for legislation that protects confidential and anonymous disclosures. The press also needs to be free to publish information in the public interest, without harassment or repercussions.
To provide a safe alternative to silence, Transparency International urges all countries to enact and strongly enforce comprehensive whistleblowing laws based on prevailing international standards, including those developed by Transparency International and by the Council of Europe.
Governments and companies should support whistleblowers when disclosures of wrongdoing are brought to light.
Transparency International remains committed to having constructive engagement with governments and the private sector.
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