Jonathan Taylor: SBM Offshore

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:41 pm on 9th November 2020.

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Photo of Wendy Morton Wendy Morton Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) 3:41 pm, 9th November 2020

I am very aware that my right hon. Friend has been taking a very keen interest in this issue. Mr Taylor exposed corruption at the Monaco-based Dutch multinational SBM Offshore in 2012. He was arrested in Croatia on 30 July this year on an Interpol red notice issued by Monaco for charges of corruption and bribery.

At this time, we have no evidence that the arrest is linked to Mr Taylor’s whistleblowing on corruption at SBM Offshore. However, Mr Taylor has alleged that the arrest is linked to his whistleblowing activities. On 3 October, the Croatian extrajudicial council issued its decision to extradite Mr Taylor to Monaco. Mr Taylor has been on bail since 4 August.

Mr Taylor appealed against his extradition to the Croatian Supreme Court, which has advised that the UK should first be asked if it wanted to extradite Mr Taylor as a UK national. We understand that the Crown Prosecution Service has advised that it has no outstanding case against Mr Taylor. Therefore, the UK has notified the Croatian authorities that we are not seeking to extradite him. The Croatian court will now reconsider the issue.

We are following the progress of Mr Taylor’s appeal very closely and will continue to do so. We have approached the Monégasque prosecutor’s office to request the details of the specific charges against Jonathan Taylor. We have also spoken to Mr Taylor’s UK lawyer to understand the grounds on which he is appealing the charges, and we are providing consular support to Mr Taylor. We have stayed in very regular contact with Mr Taylor and sought updates on the case from the Croatian judge.

Consular staff spoke to airport police on 30 July, when Mr Taylor was first arrested. They spoke to Mr Taylor and provided him with a list of local English-speaking lawyers. Staff have spoken to the judge for information on the local legal process and for regular updates on the progress of the case, to the prison social worker to check on Mr Taylor’s welfare, and to the president of the extrajudicial council. They have also spoken to Mr Taylor’s wife.

Since the decision to extradite Mr Taylor, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office staff have been in contact with Mr Taylor on multiple occasions and have spoken with Judge Djordjo Benussi of the county court in Dubrovnik. If we receive any evidence that Mr Taylor’s arrest is linked to his whistleblowing activities or that due process is not being followed, we will of course consider what further steps we can take to support him. However, it is a requirement of the Vienna convention on consular relations that signatories do not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. We cannot interfere in the legal proceedings of other countries, just as we would not accept similar interference.

I met Dame Margaret Hodge and a co-chair of the all-party group on anti-corruption and responsible tax on 15 September. More broadly, my right hon. Friend may be interested to know that the UK has seconded a senior lawyer to the Interpol taskforce working to prevent abuse of Interpol systems.