Important questions have been asked by MPs this week in the House of Commons and Peers in the House of Lords regarding whistleblower Jonathan Taylor, who is being held against his will in Croatia. Caroline Nokes – Jonathan’s local MP – asked the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs ‘what steps the Government has taken to secure his UK return so Jonathan can complete his inquiries into corruption by his former employer SBM Offshore. ‘
Wendy Morton, Parliamentary Under Secretary Foreign & Commonwealth, (Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is isolating) said, “At this time, we have no evidence that the arrest is linked to Mr Taylor’s whistleblowing on corruption at SBM Offshore…. We are following the progress of Mr Taylor’s appeal very closely and will continue to do so.
“We have approached the Monégasque prosecutor’s office to request the details of the specific charges against Jonathan Taylor. We have also spoken to Mr Taylor’s UK lawyer to understand the grounds on which he is appealing the charges, and we are providing consular support to Mr Taylor. We have stayed in very regular contact with Mr Taylor and sought updates on the case from the Croatian judge.”
She added, “If we receive any evidence that Mr Taylor’s arrest is linked to his whistleblowing activities or that due process is not being followed, we will of course consider what further steps we can take to support him. However, it is a requirement of the Vienna convention on consular relations that signatories do not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. We cannot interfere in the legal proceedings of other countries, just as we would not accept similar interference.
Important questions and points raised:
Jonathan’s ongoing support to the Serious Fraud Office
Caroline Nokes MP said Jonathan, her constituent, ‘has been providing information to the SFO regarding the actions of his former employer. Has that been considered when stating that Her Majesty’s Government are not seeking his surrender?’
Lord Wills, in the House of Lords, said, “A British citizen has exposed corruption and wrongdoing on a global scale and taken considerable personal risk to do so and as I understand it, he is still helping regulatory authorities in this country in pursuit of further wrongdoing, and yet the British Government is doing nothing to protect him from what appears to be an abuse of Interpol procedures.”
Previous arrests, convictions and fines across many countries from Jonathan Taylor’s whistleblowing disclosures
Margaret Hodge MP said, “Jonathan Taylor has blown the whistle on bribery and corruption across the globe, from Brazil to Angola, from Iraq to Equatorial Guinea and from the USA to the UK. He is a British citizen, and this brave man’s evidence has led to arrests, convictions and nearly $1 billion-worth of fines across many jurisdictions. Will the Minister explain what on earth the Government are waiting for? I simply cannot understand it. What else will it take for them to make the obvious, straightforward, necessary and important representations to both Croatia and Monaco to stop this ridiculous extradition process and bring Mr Taylor back home?”
Abuse of Interpol Red Notice
Lisa Nandy MP said, “Does the Minister agree that the charges of bribery and corruption brought against Mr Taylor bear all the hallmarks of a retaliatory act by the Government of Monaco for the widespread wrongdoing his evidence helped to expose?
“Mr Taylor’s legal team, have stated repeatedly that there is no basis in law for the red notice issued by Interpol for his arrest and have challenged its legitimacy as a clear abuse of process.”
Lisa Nandy MP pointed out Monégasque authorities have failed to instigate a single criminal investigation into the corruption that Mr Taylor’s whistleblowing brought to light.
Chris Bryant MP said, “Whistleblowers around the world are going to take away the message that the Interpol red-notice system can be abused with impunity because countries like the United Kingdom are not even going to say boo to a goose. We have seen it repeatedly, time and again: countries such as Russia against Bill Browder and lots of other countries—authoritarian regimes—are completely abusing the Interpol red-notice scheme. Do we not now need proper reform?”
Scott Benton MP asked ‘what actions the Government are taking to ensure Interpol’s systems are not abused? and was told by the Minister ‘The UK has seconded a senior lawyer to the Interpol taskforce, working to prevent the abuse of Interpol’s systems.’
The Vienna Convention
David Davis MP commented on the Vienna Convention – the international treaty that defines a framework for diplomatic relations between countries.
He said, “ The Vienna convention is important, but it does not overrule the Foreign Office’s duty to protect British citizens while they are abroad and it does not overrule the presumption of innocence. In Croatia in particular, it does not overrule the European Union whistleblowers directive of 2019.
“As a first measure, will the Minister remind the Croatians of their duties under that directive, which requires them to protect whistleblowers and, in my interpretation, requires them to return Mr Taylor home?”
Jonathan Taylor’s arrest and link to whistleblowing
In the House of Lords, Baroness Kramer said, “I am shocked by the line in the Government’s response that says we have no evidence that this arrest is linked to Mr Taylor’s whistleblowing on corruption. Employers retaliate against whistleblowers not on the grounds of their whistleblowing but by asserting spurious, contrived and false accusations and by time the whistleblower is exonerated, in the UK often at an employment tribunal, often dragged out over years, they have been financially ruined, their families scarred and sometimes their mental health compromised… That is how employers and hostile Government’s punish whistleblowers and keep others to keep silent about wrongdoing.”
The treatment of Jonathan Taylor has attracted cross-party support from MPs and Peers who, like those signing this statement, have very real concerns over his arrest and extradition to Monaco, and like us, want the UK Government to intervene.
Firstly, we are encouraged that the FCDO has written to the Monégasque authorities requesting the details of the specific charges against Jonathan Taylor which we hope will be imminent.
But the Minister, Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary Foreign & Commonwealth, is we believe, wrong to say there is no evidence to prove Jonathan Taylor has been targeted because of his whistleblowing:
- The extradition request by Monaco appears to be part of a longer ongoing campaign – back in 2014 Jonathan’s former employer (SBM Offshore) made a criminal complaint against him in Monaco. The case was successfully challenged in 2018 for abuse of process, but Monaco authorities have continued to pursue Jonathan.
- In 2015, less than a year after lodging the criminal complaint against Mr Taylor in Monaco, SBM Offshore also initiated defamation proceedings in the Netherlands. Whilst Mr Taylor successfully defeated the spurious and wholly unsubstantiated claim, it clearly demonstrates the willingness of some employers to take retaliatory legal actions against whistleblowers
- Mr Taylor’s evidence was investigated by the UK Serious Fraud Office, investigators in Brazil and the Netherlands as well as the FBI and the US Department of Justice. This resulted in fines to SBM Offshore of over $800 million. But Monégasque authorities have failed to instigate a single criminal investigation into the corruption that Mr Taylor’s whistleblowing brought to light.
- In 2018 Monaco refused (unsuccessfully) to extradite Saman Ahsani, Unaoil’s former commercial director to face corruption charges in Britain following an investigation by the SFO into corrupt oil deals made in Iraqi. This was part of an SFO investigation that lead to the conviction of Ziad Akle (Unaoil), Basil Al Jarah (Unaoil’s Iraqi partner), Paul Bond (SBM Offshore) and Stephen Whiteley (SBM Offshore) for bribery offenses in July 2020.
- Jonathan’s lawyers state that the extradition has no basis in law, and in fact the Monegasque authorises have provided no detail as to what the charges are. The UK Government have requested specific details of the charges