U.S. NGO Calls Upon GRECO to Intervene in Libel Lawsuit Filed Against Whistleblower Valery Atanasov

National Whistleblower Center states that Malta Gaming Authority lawsuit is an attack on freedom of speech and expression

WASHINGTON, D.C. | MARCH 8, 2018—The National Whistleblower Center (NWC), in cooperation with the European Center for Whistleblower Rights, has written a follow-up letter to a February 28thcommunication to the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO), urging them to intervene in the libel lawsuit that the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) has filed against former employee and whistleblower Valery Atanasov.

To read the follow-up letter to the GRECO Executive Secretary, please click here.

In the letter, NWC cites U.S. legal precedents that place limits on the lawful use of libel suits in order to ensure that the U.S. Constitution’s mandate of freedom of speech and expression is not undermined. Iturges the court(s) adjudicating Mr. Atanasov’s case to apply these rules in order to protect these same rights in Malta.

Mr. Atanasov blew the whistle on oversight irregularities and lack of enforcement while working at the MGA. He believed these irregularities could allow for money laundering and other financial crimes. Since reporting his concerns, Mr. Atanasov has been formally disciplined, suspended with a salary reduction, and fired from his job. Mr. Atanasov is now being sued by the MGA for defamation.

Under Article 14 of the Council of Europe’s Civil Law on Corruption, GRECO has the responsibility to monitor the implementation of the Convention of the Parties, including Article 9 which protects employees from unjustified retaliation from authorities should they, in good faith, report information on corruption.

Stephen M. Kohn, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center said, “the threat of a retaliatory libel lawsuit renders any whistleblower protection law a dead letter. Unless GRECO aggressively prevents the misuse of libel lawsuits to harass and intimidate whistleblowers, the right of employees to expose fraud and corruption will continue to be undermined in Europe.”

Mark Worth, executive director of the European Center for Whistleblower Rights and a member of the UN Expert Group on Whistleblowing said, “officials in Malta have ignored their own whistleblower protection law and taken aggressive civil and criminal actions against a public employee whose disclosures of misconduct have been irrefutably confirmed. This is shocking and unacceptable on all levels.”

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