The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday ruled in favour of a former employee of accounting firm PwC, saying his 2016 conviction for leaking data about Luxembourg’s tax deals with large corporations violated his right to freedom of expression.
The case revolved around confidential data used in the high-profile “LuxLeaks” revelations by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in November 2014.
Raphael Halet, a French national, received a suspended sentence of nine months and a fine of 1,000 euros in June 2016 for releasing documents that showed how large corporations secured deals from Luxembourg to slash their tax bills.
Luxembourg judges at the time ruled that the disclosure of the documents had caused PwC harm that outweighed the general interest. An appeal by Halet was dismissed in 2018.
In its ruling, the European court said the criminal conviction of Halet had had a “chilling effect” on his freedom of expression and that of any other whistleblower.
“The Court concluded that the interference with his right to freedom of expression, in particular his freedom to impart information, had not been ‘necessary in a democratic society’,” the ruling said, adding Luxembourg should pay Halet 55,000 euros in damages and legal costs.