HSBC whistleblower defends tax leak as he fights extradition
(Adds comments from Falciani and additional information)
By Jesús Aguado
MADRID, Sept 11 (Reuters) - A whistleblower fighting
extradition to Switzerland for leaking details of thousands of
clients of HSBC's private bank there said on Tuesday
his actions had played a key role in helping other European
countries uncover tax frauds.
Spain's High Court is considering Switzerland's second
extradition request against Herve Falciani, a French citizen who
worked for HSBC, over alleged industrial sabotage in 2008.
Hailed as a hero by some for triggering investigations in
several countries, Swiss courts sentenced Falciani in absentia
to five years in jail for leaking details of HSBC clients, many
of whom he said he suspected were evading tax.
Spanish courts and anti-corruption prosecutors have played a
key role in investigations in other European countries by
passing on information that originated from Falciani.
"I want to recognise the institutions with which I have been
able to collaborate...and this is why this court has played a
fundamental role in helping several European judicial
authorities," Falciani told Spain's High Court.
France, Austria, Belgium, Spain and Argentina launched
investigations based on the information leaked by Falciani, but
Swiss authorities insist the data was stolen and therefore
Falciani said that France should be thankful to Spanish
authorities, pointing out that HSBC Holdings agreed to pay 300
million euros ($353 million) last November to settle a
long-running investigation into tax evasion by French citizens
via its private bank in Switzerland.
The agreement was the first under a French system introduced
in 2016 to allow companies to settle without any finding of
Spanish Prosecutor Teresa Sandoval opposed the extradition
request for Falciani partly because the charges included in the
Swiss ruling are not considered a crime in Spain.
"The truth is that the information that Mr. Falciani
collected from the bank was never transmitted to private
individuals and only to official organisations," Sandoval said.
Her stance was supported by Falciani's lawyer Juan Ballarat.
Falciani was arrested in Madrid in April while on his way to
speak at a conference on whistleblowing.
Spain's High Court released him from custody the next day
but ordered him to remain in Spain while the extradition request
Judicial sources told Reuters they expect the judge to issue
a ruling on the extradition request in the coming days or weeks.
Falciani has been detained once before in Spain on
Switzerland's request - on a trip in 2012. He was released after
the High Court ruled against his extradition, finding the
charges he faced in Switzerland were not considered crimes under
(Additional reporting by Belen Carreno; Editing by Alexander
Smith and Kirsten Donovan)
First Published: 2018-09-11 08:24:22
Updated 2018-09-11 15:03:41
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