Today, the Allard Prize for International Integrity announced Danske Bank whistleblower Howard Wilkinson as a co-winner of its 2020 Prize. The Allard Prize is awarded to those who fight against corruption and for the protection of human rights. It is one of the world’s largest anti-corruption awards, with a $100,000 CAD prize. This year, there was a comprehensive nomination and selection process that considered 525 nominations from 80 countries. Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was a Maltese investigative journalist and ran a blog about corruption and crime in Malta, was also named a 2020 co-winner and will share the prize with Wilkinson. Galizia was murdered in 2017 in a car bomb explosion. The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), the third finalist, was named an honourable mention.
Wilkinson blew the whistle on the largest money laundering scheme in history, worth at least $230 billion, while acting as the head of Danske Bank’s trading unit in the Baltics. On September 19, 2018, news broke of the money laundering scheme that moved rubles out of Russia, converted them to dollars at the Estonian branch of Danske Bank, and then moved the dollars to New York with the assistance of three correspondent banks (Bank of America, J.P Morgan, and Deutsche Bank). Danske Bank admitted all of its internal controls designed to prevent money laundering had failed. The bank revealed that the scheme had been reported to the bank’s highest levels by a whistleblower over four years before. The whistleblower’s identity was required to be secret. But it took only days for Wilkinson’s name to leak out.
The Allard Prize website states: “Despite the considerable risk to himself and his family, Wilkinson testified before the European Parliament and advocated for greater protections for whistleblowers and a new regulation model that encourages greater transparency. The scandal led to numerous investigations and criminal charges across Europe, Danske’s CEO’s resignation, and Danske’s Estonian branch’s closing.”
When accepting the award, Wilkinson said, “Whistleblowers are the most loyal employees at all. The whole point of whistleblowers is to make things better.” He noted that sometimes as citizens, we can’t delegate things to the government or other bodies: “Sometimes, as citizens, we need to act ourselves.” Wilkinson noted that although legal framework for whistleblowers is improving, there is still a long way to go: he gave the example of the United Kingdom’s Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA), stating that this Act is “simply old and no longer fits its purpose.” He concluded by thanking the Allard Prize and stating: “Whistleblowing is important, and whistleblowers should be valued in building the society we all want to live in.”
Upon the announcement of the prize winners, Wilkinson’s whistleblower attorney Stephen M. Kohn released the following statement: “Howard Wilkinson put his career and safety on the line to expose the largest money laundering scheme in history. We are grateful to the selection committee for recognizing his contributions to human rights and anti-corruption.”
“We salute the Allard Prize for calling attention to the critical role whistleblowers play in exposing fraud and recognizing those who lose their careers when they do the right thing,” Kohn continued.
Wilkinson was profiled by Whistleblower Network News as its “Whistleblower of the Week” weekly feature on October 19.