Updated: Oct 29
LONDON, 28 October 2020 – Counsel to Jonathan Taylor, Toby Cadman of Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers, calls on the international community to act immediately to prevent the imminent extradition of a whistle-blower who disclosed bribery and corrupt practices in the oil and gas industry and who now faces charges that amount to retribution for his disclosures.
Jonathan Taylor is a British national who, during the course of his employment in the Principality of Monaco, as a lawyer for the Dutch firm SBM Offshore, uncovered an enormous corruption and bribery scandal that resulted in criminal investigations in the United Kingdom, United States of America, Netherlands, Switzerland and Brazil. His evidence contributed to fines being imposed amounting to over eight hundred million dollars and the imprisonment of three individuals to date directly involved in the scandal.
As a result of his actions he holds the status of a ‘whistle-blower’ and a ‘protected witness’.
Last year he was advised by UK law enforcement officials not to travel to Monaco due to the risks he faced. At no stage have the law enforcement or judicial authorities in Monaco sought his extradition from the United Kingdom for the very reason that they knew it would not succeed.
On 30 July 2020, Jonathan travelled to Dubrovnik, Republic of Croatia for a family holiday. He was arrested at the airport on the basis of a communication issued by Monaco on allegations of bribery and corruption. These allegations have no proper basis in law or fact and constitute an abuse of process. For Jonathan to be returned to Monaco to face trial on charges that amount to a clear act of retaliation for his having disclosed the corrupt practices of a major offshore oil firm and one of the largest private sector employer in the small principality constitutes a flagrant denial of justice and a circumvention of the rule of law.
Monaco to date has failed to initiate a single criminal investigation into highly credible and well documented allegations of bribery and corruption on the part of SBM Offshore. Instead it has targeted the one person who blew the whistle and brought public scrutiny to such widespread financial crimes. It seeks to silence such attempts to expose global corrupt practices and that should send a chilling warning to whistle-blowers and investigative journalists across the globe.
The Interpol Red Notice has been challenged and we have every reason to believe it will be withdrawn. It was issued by the Monaco authorities on a wholly politically motivated basis and it is evident that his arrest on the basis of the warrant has significant adverse implications for the neutrality of Interpol as there is a predominant political dimension to the case. It has been issued without any credible evidential basis and must be withdrawn. We have also filed a comprehensive appeal with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders.
Jonathan is being arbitrarily detained in the Republic of Croatia with severe restrictions on his movement and personal liberty. There is no evidence to justify the bringing of criminal charges. If he were to be extradited there is a very real risk that he would be the victim of a flagrant denial of justice. He has whistle-blower status and is a protected witness and therefore ought to be considered a human rights defender and afforded special protection.
On 1 September 2020, a Court in Dubrovnik ordered his extradition. The order merely stated that legal conditions were met and procedurally there was no bar to extradition. The Court failed to consider any of the challenges raised by the defence team. An appeal was filed with the Supreme Court arguing, amongst other matters, that he was a whistle-blower and the criminal charges against him were motivated by the disclosures he had made.
On 12 October 2020, the Supreme Court issued a decision partially upholding the appeal and ordered that the matter be returned to the lower court for reconsideration. However, the Supreme Court ruled, rather illogically, that it was required to inform the United Kingdom that as the extradition concerned one of its nationals, it should be afforded the right to request his surrender under the European Arrest Warrant Scheme. It further ordered that in the event that the United Kingdom does not seek his surrender then the lower Court should rule on the request for extradition by Monaco.
On 20 October 2020, the Court in Dubrovnik wrote to the authorities of the United Kingdom requesting a statement as to whether it sought his extradition.
The UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has stated that it is unable to interfere in the Croatian and Monegasque legal systems and therefore appear unwilling to take any action. The UK has thus far refused to engage as it was perceived to be intervening in the independent judicial system of a foreign state and the UK has a policy against such a practice. Such a position is quite disingenuous, inaccurate and wholly unsustainable. In circumstances where there is a risk of an abuse of process and/or a flagrant denial of justice there is not only a basis for intervention, there is an obligation to intervene. It is hard to see what further evidence is required to demonstrate this. Moreover, it is simply untrue. Our Government does intervene when it is politically expedient to do so. It has intervened in the case of Mohammed Nasheed (Maldives), Nazanin Zaghari-Radcliffe (Iran), John Doughall (Greece), Matthew Hedges (UAE) and the Al Jazeera Journalists (Egypt), all cases where there was clear justification to intervene. However, the issue in the case of Jonathan Taylor is no longer one of intervening in the independent judicial system of a sovereign state. The United Kingdom is now being directly invited to intervene by the Croatian Court and it should do so.
The reality of the situation is that unless the United Kingdom intervenes there is an increasing likelihood that Jonathan could be stuck alone in Croatia for many more months to come without his young family or the ability to support them and that must not be allowed to happen. What Jonathan has already given up for disclosing systemic corruption in the oil and gas industry ought to be applauded not penalised.
There is therefore a very real risk that Jonathan will be extradited to Monaco, be subject to detention pending trial and would not receive a fair trial, unless there is urgent intervention.
On a final note, this case is bigger than Jonathan and all of us. If Jonathan were to be extradited and face trial in Monaco, when none of the perpetrators in Monaco have even faced police questioning, would send a chilling message to whistle-blowers and investigative journalists the world over. We simply cannot allow that to happen. We must act now.
Enquiries: +44 20 3984 6244
Toby Cadman: +44 7808071111