Whistleblowers, a still fragile state


Massive fraud, illegal surveillance or health scandals: they reported in the name of general interest and often paid dearly. The informers are still very little protected according to the countries, which are mostly reluctant to compensate them.

Irene Frachon, the doctor who in 2007 revealed the scandal of the Preliminaries, suffered pressure and threats. Edward Snowden, who in 2013 unveiled the scope of listening to the NSA in the United States, fled to Russia. Antoine Deltour, suspected of being behind the disclosure of a large-scale tax optimization system ("LuxLeaks"), was prosecuted for "breach of trade secrecy", before finally seeing in January 2018 he acknowledged his status as an informant from Luxembourg courts.

In France, where the UBS world-wide asset management process of the world heavyweights, proven for a vast tax evasion system, took place from the beginning of October, informants were dragged into the mud by the Swiss giant's lawyers. "Bankers" and "traitors" according to bankers, voices of value, which revealed an illegal solicitation despite the destruction of documents, for the prosecution.

"They are people whose lives are changing because they have done their duty as citizens, in the name of the general interest, they are guard dogs of democracy, we have to protect them," Nicole-Marie Meyer, program manager, told AFP Ethical Alert by Transparency International France.

Protect France

After the shock of the case Jérôme Cahuzac, the budget minister who had a hidden account abroad, France has a strong anti-corruption arsenal and has endowed at the end of 2016 (Loi Sapin II) a regime of protection for informants "among more advanced in Europe ", according to Transparency International.

The informant is defined as "a natural person who reveals or reports, in a disinterested way and in good faith, a crime or offense, … or a serious threat or harm to the general interest, of which he had known personally ".

The relationship follows an arrow: first internally to a superior, then to the judicial or administrative authority, and finally, if the notice has not been drawn up within three months, it can be made public. "In case of serious and imminent danger", the informant can make public his report. He may also, at any time, appeal to the Rights Defender.

For Stéphanie Gibaud, a former UBS executive who has been awarded compensation for moral harassment, remains "insufficient": "How to prove the + imminent danger +? And to report internally, is to throw in the mouth of the wolf.

In Europe, the slow construction of a statute

On 23 April 2018, the European Commission presented a proposal for a directive: companies with more than 50 employees or with a turnover of more than 10 million euro, as well as large public administrations will be obliged to put in place facilities to protect whistleblowers.

But this text, which will soon be discussed in the European Parliament, is much more restrictive than that of countries such as Ireland or France. On Wednesday, 32 associations and trade unions, including WIN (Whistleblowing International Network), Greenpeace and Sherpa, launched a petition asking "not to question the provisions of the Member States that could better protect whistleblowers than the directive".

They recommend, for example, "not to force the employee to notify his organization first" and to provide "full compensation for the damage suffered".

Pioneers and trends

Few countries, such as Ireland, Serbia, South Africa or Japan, have passed comprehensive laws on the subject. The United Kingdom is a pioneer: it is the first state, since 1998, to guarantee the protection of informers with a text ("Public Disclosure Act") that protects them from possible reprisals by employers.

Throughout Europe, legislation is changing. In Iceland, the parliament unanimously approved a resolution in June 2010 to make the island a haven for the defenders of freedom of expression.

In Denmark, a draft law is being prepared for 2019: the issue is all the more relevant as the huge money laundering scandal that shakes the country's biggest bank, Danske Bank, was partially revealed by a pitcher Howard Wilkinson, to be heard by MPs in November.

In the Far West, the reward

In the United States, scammers are kicked out and informers are sometimes prosecuted, even when they reveal a serious dysfunction. But, single case, the complainants can also be rewarded with the tax, which gives them a percentage of the assets recovered.

The case of the former UBS banker Bradley Birkenfeld is exemplary in this regard: he reported thousands of scammers to the US tax authorities and in 2009 the Swiss giant was fined $ 780 million.

That same year, Birkenfeld was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to incitement to tax evasion. At the time of his release, the repentant received a US tax service a $ 104 million reward for his information deemed "exceptional in both size and scope". "Sometimes the crime pays," wrote the New York Times about him.

Bad students

Russia hosting Edward Snowden is a very bad student. An amendment to an anti-corruption law of 2017 is still awaiting its validation and, above all, according to a report by the NGO for human rights Agora, "informants are regularly subjected to reprisals, including murders, violence and prosecutions" among others for high treason, espionage, revelation of state secrets.

Since 1995, Agora has counted about 100 informants in Russia: 39% have been fired, 5% have suffered violence, 18% have been prosecuted.

As for Switzerland, the country of safes and bank secrecy, it does not yet have a specific status for whistleblowers. A draft law, which must be presented to the parliament, provides that the report is admitted only if it is first addressed to the employer.

cutters-SB / EPE / cca


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