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Luxleaks whistleblowers get suspended sentences, journalist acquitted

The two Luxleaks whistleblowers have received suspended sentences while journalist Edouard Perrin has been acquitted. Anti-corruption organizations slammed the guilty verdict as an attack on whistleblowers.

A Luxembourg court on Wednesday handed down suspended sentences to two former employees of accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) for leaking thousands of secret tax documents, in a controversial case opponents said targeted whistleblowers.

Antoine Deltour (pictured) received a 1,500-euro ($1,665) fine and 12-month suspended sentence, while Raphael Halet was given a 9-month suspended sentence and 1,000-euro fine for leaking sensitive documents.

Journalist Edouard Perrin was acquitted of charges of being an accomplice.

Both former PwC employees said they would appeal the decision.

The secret documents were originally used by Perrin for a 2012 report, but the tax affair gained world attention after journalists at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published a series of reports in 2014 based on the more than 28,000 documents.

The LuxLeaks affair showed how Luxembourg cut billions of euros in secret tax deals with multinational corporations, an issue that has gained renewed public focus following the release of

the Panama Papers

.

The affair ensnared European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who was prime minister of Luxembourg when multinational corporations hid billions of euros in the duchy. The revelations later led to a series of EU-wide tax avoidance measures and tax probes into companies across the 28-nation bloc.

Luxembourg's whistleblower protection laws are limited to corruption and money laundering, but do not include breaking secrecy laws, violating trade secrets or illegally accessing a database.

Observers said the case required striking a balance between maintaining secrecy laws, promoting transparency and protecting a financial sector that is the backbone of Luxembourg's economy.

The case against the former PwC workers and Perrin was widely criticized by journalists, transparency groups and politicians as an attack on whistleblowers.

"Whistleblowers who expose tax dodging should be celebrated and protected - not prosecuted and there must be greater transparency in the tax system," Max Lawson of the international aid group Oxfam said in a statement.

Berlin-based anti-corruption organization Transparency International called the verdict "appalling"

Deltour defended the leaks and pointed to them as resulting in a series of tax reforms across the EU.

"Sentencing the citizens at the origin of LuxLeaks revelations is equivalent to sentencing the regulatory advancements which have been triggered by these revelations and which have been widely acclaimed across Europe," he said in a statement issued by his support committee. "This is also a warning towards future whistleblowers, which is detrimental to citizen's information and the good functioning of the democracy."

cw/blc (AFP, Reuters)

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