LuxLeaks scandal: Luxembourg tax whistleblowers convicted

This combination of pictures created on 26 April 26, 2016 (Left to right) French journalist Edouard Perrin, and former employees at services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Raphael Halet and Antoine Deltour, at the courthouse in Luxembourg Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Journalist Edouard Perrin (left) received documents from the two whistleblowers

Two whistleblowers have been found guilty in the so-called "Luxleaks" tax scandal and given suspended sentences, while a journalist has been acquitted.

Former PricewaterhouseCoopers employees Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet received 12 and nine-month sentences respectively for leaking documents.

Prosecutors had sought 18-month jail terms for the two men.

Edouard Perrin, a journalist who reported on the leaks, was acquitted of all charges.

Deltour, 31, and Halet, 40, also received suspended fines of €1,500 (£1,250; $1,650) and €1,000 respectively.

They have 40 days to appeal against the verdict. Deltour told Agence France-Presse that he intended to do so.

The prosecution accused Deltour and Halet of theft and said they violated a confidentiality agreement in their employment contract with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

The two men faced a maximum sentence of 10 years.

'A true scandal'

The 30,000 pages of documents leaked by the whistleblowers exposed favourable tax arrangements offered by Luxembourg to some of the world's biggest companies - including Apple, Ikea, and Pepsi - while Jean-Claude Juncker, now head of the European Commission, was prime minister.

Prosecutors accused Mr Perrin of going beyond the remit of a journalist, alleging that he manipulated Halet into releasing the information.

Representing Mr Perrin, defence lawyer Roland Michel argued that the journalist had done nothing wrong.

"My client has done only done one thing - reveal the truth. To condemn him would be immoral and contrary to our rights," he said.

Revealing the Luxleaks scandal - James Oliver, Panorama

It is now five years since I travelled to Paris to meet French journalist Edouard Perrin. I'd been tipped that he had a huge cache of secret tax agreements between multinational companies and the Luxembourg tax authorities.

The data had been leaked to Edouard Perrin by an insider at accountancy firm, PWC. A year later we broke the story with a BBC Panorama programme in conjunction with a film for France2 made by Edouard Perrin.

Two years later the same data received wider coverage after an international investigation of the data organised by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

But despite the revelations prompting parliamentary debates, select committee hearings, and an EU probe into anti-competitive tax deals, it is the two former employees of PWC and Edouard Perrin who ended up in the dock.

Although they have been given suspended sentences, the guilty verdicts for the two former PWC employees are likely to increase calls for more robust protections for whistleblowers.

And despite Mr Perrin's acquittal, the fact that a journalist was prosecuted at all is likely to leave others in the media wondering whether they might be prosecuted for working with leaked data, no matter how clear the public interest.

French media organisations and rights groups including Oxfam France and French-based anti-capitalist group Attac criticised the prosecution of the three men.

Attac called the verdict "a true scandal" and said it was a victory for multinational companies.

The "Luxleaks" documents were originally used for a 2012 report on French public television in collaboration with the BBC's Panorama and Private Eye magazine. They gained international interest in 2014 with a huge dump of all 30,000 pages into the public domain.

The leak was the biggest expose of corporate tax deals until last month's publication of the Panama Papers, which revealed links between a number of international leaders and offshore shell companies that can be used to hide or launder wealth.

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