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22nd Oct 2021

Croatia snubs Monaco to let free British whistleblower

  • Jonathan Taylor was intercepted while on holiday in Croatia last July due to Monaco's Interpol Red Notice (Photo: Jonathan Taylor)

Jonathan Taylor, an oil-industry whistleblower, is free to return to the UK after Croatia snubbed Monaco's request to have him extradited.

"I'm coming home," he told EUobserver from Dubrovnik on Thursday (8 July), where he was detained while on holiday last year and where he has been stuck for more than 340 days fighting his case.

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"The British embassy called to say that it had been in touch with the [Croatian] ministry of justice ... I'm guessing that I will leave at some point during the week beginning 19 July," he added.

His breakthrough came earlier the same day, when Croatia's justice minister, Ivan Malenica, overturned a Croatian court decision to extradite Taylor to Monaco, which had sought him for questioning over his relations with SBM Offshore, a Monaco-based oil firm for which he used to work.

Taylor first made headlines in 2013 when he exposed a massive bribery scheme in the company, leading to it being fined over $800m in Brazil, the Netherlands, and the US.

But Monaco later accused him of attempted extortion of SBM Offshore and hunted him using an Interpol Red Notice in what Taylor and several NGOs saw as a revenge attack.

The Croatian minister, in his statement of reasoning, relied on technical legal arguments.

But his decision was welcomed as a political sign by a group of more than 30 NGOs, including The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation, the European Federation of Journalists, and Transparency International.

"His [Malenica's] decision in this case has wider implications for the rule of law in Europe: it is a victory for the public's right to know about wrongdoing by protecting the messengers of that information," they said in a statement.

"Croatia has demonstrated its commitment to the rule of law and to the protection of whistleblowers," they added.

"Be assured that I remain resolute and proud of exposing serious wrongdoing at SBM Offshore and I will never be intimidated by the corrupt and those that shamefully seek retaliation," Taylor also said, in a morale-boosting statement for other whistleblowers in Europe.

The NGOs called on Monaco to drop all proceedings against Taylor and further investigate SBM Offshore instead.

The Monégasque foreign ministry declined to comment on Croatia's decision.

But a Monaco spokeswoman recently told EUobserver: "Monaco has a long tradition of utmost respect of human rights. There is absolutely no doubt on the fact that once in Monaco, Mr. Taylor will be treated with dignity and in all respect of the rights that the law confers to him".

"We would be relieved that this case could be treated as swiftly as possible for him and his family and also for the sake of truth," she added.

Meanwhile, Thursday's decision also came after Britain reached out to the Croatian government on Taylor's behalf.

"We are supporting a British man following his arrest in Dubrovnik and are in regular contact with him. Foreign and Commonwealth Development Officer minister Wendy Morton has sought assurances from Croatia and Monaco that he will be treated fairly. We are in regular contact with the Croatian authorities," a British foreign office spokesman recently told this website.

But despite his moral victory and upbeat tone, the Monégasque campaign against Taylor also took its toll.

He lost his job and separated from his wife during his 11-month seclusion in Dubrovnik.

He also suffered psychological distress.

"He has been isolated, away from his family, and unable to support himself or his family, all of which have taken an extreme toll on his mental wellbeing", the NGO group said in its statement.

"We wish Jonathan a safe return to the UK where he can begin to rebuild his life," they said.

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