Parrhesia Inc

Advancing Whistleblowing

Jonathan Taylor

Jonathan Taylor

Former corporate and in-house lawyer, FBI informant, key witness in Brazil’s notorious Carwash corruption mega-scandal, victim of a spurious Interpol Red Notice, and recipient of the 2021 Blueprint Prize for Whistleblowing: Jonathan has had an eventful decade since he first helped unearth evidence of multi-million-dollar corruption at his former employer, Dutch listed multinational SBM Offshore, in 2012. Jonathan offers a unique insight into corporate fraud, how not to manage a crisis, cross-border investigations, and the life changing risks that whistleblowers face when they dare expose the wrong-doing of the corporate and political elite. With a degree in law and his professional qualifications obtained, Jonathan embarked on a career with a top UK law firm with stints in Cairo, London, including a secondment to Shell, and Muscat. In 2003, he joined the oil services company SBM at their head office in Monaco and rose to be the company’s number two in-house lawyer.

In 2012, he was a senior member of the investigation team that discovered concrete evidence of massive top-down corruption at his then employer. Within months he had resigned, appalled by what he saw as the start of full-scale cover-up. When his fears where confirmed, he formally went public in January 2015 in Dutch magazine Vrij Nederland. In May that year, following headline stories in the Brazilian media, a delegation of Brazilian MPs flew to the UK to hear Jonathan give a five-hour presentation on illicit payments from SBM relating to the national oil and gas company, Petrobras. By February 2015, the entire board of Petrobras, once the biggest company in the southern hemisphere by market capitalisation, resigned on the back of Jonathan’s revelations and within a year, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff had been impeached, found guilty of crimes, and expelled from office.

One month after the Brazilian visit, SBM sued Jonathan for defamation in the Dutch courts, in a classic example of a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation). SBM later dropped the case after a comprehensive defence was filed.

In the summer of 2020, he was arrested as he and wife and three children arrived in Dubrovnik, Croatia for a family holiday. The Interpol Red Notice had been issued by Monaco after a formal complaint of “attempted extortion” from his former employer SBM was made in 2014. He spent a year in detention, first in prison and then under house arrest, awaiting the outcome of the extradition proceedings that ensued. Two dozen British MPs of all parties openly supported his case in response to an urgent question was asked of the FCDO by his MP in the House of Commons. He has been the subject of sustained and substantial international media interest including in the UK where the BBC, The Times, The Telegraph and The Guardian all followed his plight. He has received the unstinting support of scores of civil society organizations, NGOs, pressure groups and charities across the globe. He was finally released and allowed to return to the UK in July 2021 after the intervention of Croatia’s Minister of Justice.

Jonathan has assisted the authorities in the UK, the Netherlands, France, Brazil, Switzerland, and the US, including the FBI who flew him to Washington DC following the publication of the Dutch article in which he went public. To date, SBM has paid more than US$840 million in penalties to various government agencies. Two of its former CEOs have been convicted for crimes of corruption, one of whom served time in a US jail. Investigations continue into current and former managers. Whilst stuck in Croatia, Jonathan was offered neither help or protection from any of the authorities he assisted including the UK Government. In October 2022, the Appeal Court in Monaco upheld the first instance decision that Jonathan had no case to answer. With his life now unrecognisable after his detainment in Croatia, this was too little too late.

A leading whistleblower of the twenty-first century, Jonathan is a confident and engaging speaker who has a compelling, truth is stranger than fiction, story to tale. He is happy to talk about his firsthand experiences and but also offer a thorough understanding of corruption at the highest levels of international society and how the world is ill equipped for whistleblowers.