Whistleblowers who work with the authorities to uncover serious corruption and bring wrongdoers to account must be protected across borders. Jonathan Taylor’s case reveals the nonsense of law enforcement authorities relying on whistleblowers’ disclosures in one jurisdiction, while allowing them to be pursued and harassed in another. Anna Myers, Executive Director of WIN, writes.
Jonathan Taylor is an important whistleblower in the Petrobras scandal. He worked as a lawyer for SBM Offshore and revealed the massive scale of systematic bribery in which his former employer engaged to secure oil-platform contracts with Petrobras. He worked closely with prosecuting authorities in the UK, the US, the Netherlands and Brazil which led to the prosecution and imprisonment of senior managers at SBM Offshore, as well as securing record-breaking fines against the company. Specifically, his whistleblowing led to the Brazilian authorities fining SBM Offshore US$347 million for its corrupt activities in September 2018.
While the authorities in Brazil rightly pursued SBM Offshore based on the evidence of serious misconduct, in Monaco – where the company is headquartered – it is Jonathan who has been subject to complaint. In 2014, SBM Offshore made a criminal complaint against him in Monaco, alleging that he tried to extort them in the context of his employment dispute. The case was thrown out of court after the company offered no evidence but was resurrected in 2019. Recently, they told the Telegraph that they had withdrawn the complaint.
SBM Group also sued Jonathan for defamation in the Netherlands, where they are based, on the grounds that by revealing their corruption he was damaging their reputation. They sought €630,000 and a public apology in this clear attempt to SLAPP him. When an interim judgement went against the company in the Dutch courts, they reduced their damages claim against Jonathan to zero, effectively dropping the case. However, this came only after drawn out and expensive litigation.
Instigated by his former employers, these actions appear designed to harass Jonathan and send a clear signal that whistleblowing will not be tolerated.
The latest chapter in the saga began when Jonathan was arrested at Dubrovnik Airport as he arrived for a week’s holiday in Croatia with his family in August 2020. An Interpol Red Notice, issued on behalf of Monaco, sought his arrest and extradition to answer to the criminal complaint six years after it was first made and then, supposedly, dropped by SBM Offshore. He has so far spent 90+ days in Dubrovnik without his family, without work and in distress.
As Jonathan is a UK citizen, his pro bono lawyer and voluntary support group, of which WIN is part, are urging the UK government to intervene. The support group has released two public statements on Jonathan’s behalf, one in August and the second last week. Furthermore, a press release has been issued by his lawyer, Toby Cadman of Guernica Chambers in London, calling on the international community to support Jonathan and imploring the UK government to intervene to protect him.
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