Pieter Omtzigt, the General Rapporteur on the Protection of Whistle-blowers for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, has called for a swift end to the “persecution” of the British oil-industry whistle-blower Jonathan Taylor, who in 2014 helped expose $275 million in bribes paid by his former employer, SBM Offshore, Monaco’s largest private sector employer.
Mr Taylor, a lawyer by profession, was detained in late July when he arrived with his family for a seven-day holiday in Dubrovnik. He is still there after 80 days later, fighting against deportation to Monaco. The Principality had issued an Interpol Red Notice for his arrest, and Mr Taylor was told he faced charges of bribery and corruption.
His exposure of corrupt payments at SBM Offshore resulted in penalties against the company totalling over $800 million.
The company accused Mr Taylor of attempted extortion when he asked for compensation amounting to seven figures for unfair dismissal.
As we wrote here on August 3, a spokesperson for SBM Offshore told us that the company had dropped any proceedings against Mr Taylor several years ago, and was surprised at the news of his arrest.
Last week, Pieter Omtzigt told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe: “Jonathan Taylor was arrested this summer during a family holiday in Croatia on the basis of an Interpol Red Notice for alleged bribery and corruption. This stems from a complaint filed in Monaco by his former employer which a Monegasque court had already rejected two years ago. Monaco’s recourse to the Red Notice procedure for this purpose is an abuse of procedure exactly of the kind the Parliamentary Assembly condemned in its earlier reports on the misuse of Interpol.
“The relentless persecution even of successful whistle-blowers like Mr Taylor is unacceptable. It has a chilling effect on all those who come across threats to the public interest and consider alerting us, for the sake of our health and safety, and the fight against corruption and crime,” said Mr Omtzigt.
Pieter Omtzigt is the author of several reports on whistle-blower protection in the Parliamentary Assembly, and was recently appointed as its General Rapporteur on the protection of whistle-blowers.
Attempts to obtain a statement from Monaco prosecutors have been unsuccessful. The Interpol notice was issued in March this year.
The case should also be seen in the wider context of Monaco’s relationship with the Council of Europe. Over a period of recent years delegations from the Council visited Monaco to examine if the Principality suffered from a democratic deficit. The conclusion that the Council came to was that Monaco’s unique system of governance should give no cause for concern.
Monaco became a member of the Council of Europe on October 5, 2004.
On release from custody on August 4, Mr Taylor said: “It is a huge relief being released from custody. I have been treated well by the judge and the prison guards. Yet still, I have been arrested and held in jail at the request of the Monaco authorities which has resulted in me being treated like a common criminal. I have been locked in a cell with three other prisoners for 22 hours a day – all because I blew the whistle on bribery and corruption on an enormous scale within the oil and gas industry.
“I have full confidence in the Croatian authorities to do the right thing and refuse Monaco’s request for extradition as an abuse of process.
“I have lived with these accusations for six years. I was accused of blackmail in 2014, a charge I vehemently oppose. I have brought proceedings against the company that now seek to have me arbitrarily prosecuted for acting in the public interest.
“I have successfully fought SBM Offshore in the civil courts and have assisted law enforcement in the Netherlands, the US, the UK, Brazil and Switzerland. My evidence has been instrumental in SBM Offshore receiving fines of several hundred million dollars and the people responsible receiving substantial prison sentences for bribery and corruption.
“It is disturbing that the Monaco authorities continue to seek to target me as a whistleblower despite having failed to investigate the enormous bribery scandal which took place in Monaco, where SBM Offshore was headquartered at the time of the corruption.
“The targeting of a whistleblower in such circumstances has wider implications far greater than my fate. It will negatively impact on the necessary protection of whistleblowers and investigative journalists worldwide. For that we should all be very concerned.”
On Sunday, October 18, Mr Taylor told NEWS.MC: “It has been 80 days since my enforced stay in Croatia on wrongful charges. It’s been incredibly tough but I see the end is in sight and I of course look forward to being back home with my family very shortly now. I have been enjoying enormous support from NGOs, pro bono prominent lawyers, friends, journalists, film makers, family and investigating authorities alike, for which I will forever be grateful. “
PHOTO: Jonathan Taylor (Provided)