Spanish Judge Releases HSBC Whistleblower on Bail
Switzerland’s Ministry of Justice on Thursday said it has formally asked Spain for the extradition of Herve Falciani, a former HSBC Holdings PLC employee who was arrested a day earlier by Spanish police acting on an global warrant.
He was arrested on Wednesday in Madrid when he was going to take part in a public event at the Universidad Pontificia de Comillas.
A Swiss court in 2015 convicted Falciani of aggravated industrial espionage and handed him a five-year jail sentence, but he did not attend his trial and has since avoided Switzerland. Swiss authorities say Mr Falciani stole and attempted to sell confidential data, violating Swiss banking secrecy laws.
Falciani leaked documents allegedly indicating that HSBC’s Swiss private banking arm helped more than 120,000 clients to hide US$222 billion from tax authorities.
He obtained access to the encrypted customer information after moving to HSBC’s offices in Geneva in 2006. Falciani was arrested due to the extradition order issued by Swiss authorities for Falciani for releasing the list.
Yet suspicious bankers in Lebanon were not interested in buying the dubiously sourced client list and at least one tipped off their Swiss counterparts to Falciani’s activities.
Falciani rejects that he was only seeking financial gain, insisting he had wanted to expose how banks support tax evasion and money laundering.
An earlier extradition request from Switzerland prompted Mr Falciani’s arrest in Barcelona in 2012.
Spain’s High Court prosecutor on Thursday asked a judge to bar Swiss bank whistleblower Herve Falciani from leaving Spain before a ruling on whether he will be extradited to Switzerland.
It is a sensitive time in Spanish-Swiss relations, as Spain has issued an global arrest warrant for a Catalan separatist leader, Marta Rovira, who fled to Switzerland in March.