Today, the Monaco Appeal Court threw out the appeal by the Monegasque Public Prosecutor, against the Investigating Judge’s decision to end the investigation against SBM whistleblower, Jonathan Taylor. His case attracted major international media coverage when he was detained under house arrest in Croatia in 2020 for almost a year after Interpol issued an arrest warrant on behalf of the Monaco authorities.
The judges’ decision was the culmination of eight years of legal shenanigans which stemmed from a complaint of “attempted extortion” made against Taylor to the Monaco Public Prosecutor in September 2014 by his former employer, disgraced oil industry multinational SBM Offshore. SBM is the biggest private sector employer in the Principality. The charge of “attempted extortion” carries a maximum sentence of five years.
By contrast, the Monaco authorities have to date brought not one charge against SBM or any of its former or current executives. Astonishing, given the huge penalties to which SBM has been subject in a number of major jurisdictions.
SBM Offshore, a Dutch multinational whose corporate headquarters were for decades in Monaco, has now paid more than $800m in criminal fines and other payments to authorities in the Netherlands, Brazil, Switzerland and the US.
Two of its former CEOs have been convicted of criminal offences. One of them, British national Tony Mace was sentenced in 2017 by a US court to three years in prison for fraud-related offences, while his predecessor French national Didier Keller was found guilty in Switzerland in 2019, fined approximately €500,000 and given a suspended sentence.
Current CEO Bruno Chabas, and former “ethics” officer and now Supervisory Board member Sietze Hepkema both paid $60,000 to settle criminal proceedings in Brazil in 2016. Hepkema was formerly Amsterdam senior partner and joint head of global corporate practice at London-based international law firm, Allen & Overy.
In 2019, SBM was also found guilty of the extremely serious charge of misleading the markets in 2014 by the Amsterdam Financial Markets Authority (AFM). After a three-year (!) appeal process, one of the two charges was confirmed and the company ordered to pay one million euros. Disappointingly, no executives of the company were named or suffered penalties.
Commenting on today’s Monaco ruling, Taylor said:
“While this welcome news will not bring me back my career or the year I lost under house arrest in Croatia, it does give me back control of my life. I shall now use that control to hold to account those who tried -- and very nearly succeeded in -- silencing me, for uncovering one of the largest cases of systematic corporate fraud ever exposed. Today is a good day for justice as it is a good day too for whistleblowers.
My heartfelt thanks go to the many people who have tirelessly supported me over the years, with special mention going to everyone at the whistleblowing charity ‘Protect’, and to my incredible international team of lawyers, William Bourdon, Basile Oudet, Toby Cadman, Otto Volgenant and Hanna van Til, whose splendid work has got us to today’s decision.”
TIMELINE OF EVENTS RELATING TO SBM CORRUPTION: 2012 TO 2022
Internal investigation at SBM Offshore Monaco HQ -- prompted by an external concern reported by a US attorney -- reveals widespread and massive corruption in its offshore oil business, involving hundreds of millions of dollars in illicit payments. TAYLOR is a senior member of the Investigation. SBM senior management institute a cover-up with incomplete disclosure to the various authorities, causing TAYLOR to leave the company.
SBM allegedly make a complaint about TAYLOR to the Monaco prosecutor after a February 2014 story in Dutch Quote magazine suggesting SBM involvement in massive corruption in Brazil, Angola and Equatorial Guinea.
SBM pay €240m in fines and compensation to Dutch authorities following investigation in which TAYLOR was thanked for his assistance. TAYLOR also assists Brazilian authorities who fly to UK to interview him.
SBM make a public complaint following publication of damaging story in Dutch weekly Vrij Nederland in which TAYLOR had detailed global corruption by SBM.
TAYLOR flies to Washington to assist the US Federal Bureau of Investigation into SBM corruption.
Monaco Public Prosecutor declines to confirm existence of SBM’s complaint against TAYLOR.
SBM sue TAYLOR for defamation in Dutch court, a move commonly known as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (“SLAPP”).
Publication of the Unaoil leaks, in which SBM is named.
SBM withdraw defamation case in Dutch court.
TAYLOR informed of the existence of SBM’s Monaco complaint.
Monaco’s Correctional Court dismisses case against TAYLOR on grounds of multiple breaches of Article 6 of European Convention on Human Rights.
SBM fined a $347m by the Brazilian Public Prosecutor for its corrupt activities in Brazil. This follows a four-year a ban on SBM participating in Brazilian tenders.
SBM fined $238m by US authorities for corruption relating to various countries including Brazil. Former senior SBM executives indicted.
TAYLOR held at Dubrovnik airport in Croatia under an Interpol Red Notice, kept under house arrest pending court decision concerning extradition to Monaco. SBM claim (August 2020, to Daily Telegraph) they are not involved in the move.
Interpol formally withdraw Red Notice.
Croatia’s Justice Minister, Ivan Malenica, overturns The Croatian Supreme Court ruling which had granted extradition to Monaco. TAYLOR flies back to UK.
TAYLOR meets the Investigation Judge, Ludovic Leclerk, in Monaco.
M. Leclerk decides to end the investigation against TAYLOR. Monaco’s Public Prosecutor appeals decision, with the appeal heard in June 2022.
Monaco Appeal Court decides to reject the appeal, thereby upholding the Investigation Judge’s decision to end the investigation against TAYLOR.