LuxLeaks verdict: Another backlash for European whistleblowers

On March 15, the Criminal Court of Luxembourg confirmed last year’s verdict against whistleblowers Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet. The whistleblowers had appealed to the judgement delivered in June 2016, which had sentenced both to a suspended jail time of 12 and 9 months respectively. The new judgement upholds a 6 month suspended jail sentence for Deltour as well as fines for both whistleblowers.

Deltour and Halet were on trial for leaking details about large-scale tax evasion of multinational companies in Europe. Charges had been pressed by their former employer, the consultancy service PricewaterhouseCoopers, which had facilitated the schemes systematically in cooperation with the state of Luxembourg.

The verdict does not come as a surprise, but remains disappointing: The ruling contradicts article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights granting freedom of expression, thus setting out a clear line guiding national interests in the state of Luxembourg: The financial interests of multinational companies continue to outweigh freedom of speech as a human right as well as the public interest.

Additionally, the judgement refers to the whistleblowers’ actions as “fraudulent behavior”, a wording that may sound ironic to many of the civil society groups speaking out in favor of Deltour and Halet. For them, this charge would rather apply to the multinationals as well as the state of Luxembourg.

The whistleblowers have not yet announced whether they will be taking it to the next level. Eventually, the final level of jurisdiction would be the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which has frequently ruled in favor of whistleblowers. But until then, it is a long way to go.