Court overturns verdict against Luxembourg tax whistleblower

BRUSSELS — A Luxembourg court on Thursday overturned a verdict against a former accounting firm employee who leaked thousands of secret documents to a journalist investigating sweetheart tax deals the government granted to big foreign companies.

The Court of Cassation ruled that Antoine Deltour should have been recognized as a whistleblower, a status that could afford him additional legal protection. It ordered judges to reconsider their verdict against him.

Deltour welcomed the court decision, telling reporters that "it sent a message that is likely to lead to an acquittal."

Former PricewaterhouseCoopers staffers Deltour and Raphael Halet were found guilty in 2016 of stealing private documents. Deltour was sentenced to a six-month suspended prison term, while Halet received a 1,000 euro ($1,194) fine. The court rejected Halet's appeal Thursday.

Journalist and co-defendant Edouard Perrin, who used the materials dubbed "LuxLeaks" for a series of exposes, was previously acquitted.

The three were regarded as heroes by many for exposing Luxembourg's willingness to award large tax breaks to leading multinational companies.

The LuxLeaks scandal proved a major embarrassment for EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who was Luxembourg's prime minister when the deals were made.

Anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International also welcomed Thursday's verdict, and called for better protection for people like the accused.

"We need comprehensive whistleblower protection laws in all EU countries to ensure that whistleblowers like Deltour and Halet are not prosecuted in the future," said the organization's executive director, Patricia Moreira.

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