LuxLeak scandal
Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet, have received jail sentences for leaking the firm's documents in the LuxLeaks scandal. (In picture) Deltour (C) and his lawyer William Bourdon leave the court after the first day of the trialReuters

Two former PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) employees, who were instrumental in exposing controversial tax practices in Luxembourg in 2014, have been sentenced to jail after being found guilty of theft and violation of Luxembourg's professional secrecy laws.

Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet received 12 and nine months sentences, respectively, while a journalist who reported the leaks has been acquitted by the Luxembourg court.

About 30,000 documents of the accountancy firm were leaked in November 2014 reportedly showing tax arrangements in the country that allegedly helped companies including Apple, Ikea and Pepsi evade taxes. President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, who was the prime minister of Luxembourg at the time, was also embroiled in the scandal.

In addition to the prison sentences, the whistleblowers were also fined €1,500 (£1,250; $1,650) and €1,000, respectively. Prosecution had accused the duo of data theft and violation of a confidentiality agreement in their employment contract with PwC. The journalist, Edouard Perrin, was accused of manipulating Halet into revealing the documents. However, Perrin's defence lawyer Roland Michel argued that his client only revealed the truth. "To condemn him would be immoral and contrary to our rights," he said.

The prosecutors sought 18 months jail terms for the two men, who faced a maximum of 10 years in prison. Deltour, 31, and Halet, 40, can appeal against the verdict within 40 days. Deltour told AFP that he intended to file an appeal soon.

Until the Panama Papers scandal came to light, in which the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) uncovered more than 11.5 million documents of law firm Mossack Fonseca showing links between offshore companies and alleged tax evasion, LuxLeaks scandal was the biggest exposé of corporate tax deals.

Panama Papers: The 11.5m document leak explainedIBTimes UK

Meanwhile, French media organisations and the country's rights groups – including Oxfam France and Attac – have criticised the prosecution of the whistleblowers and the journalist, the BBC reported. Attac said that the verdict was a victory for multinational companies.