Published: Thu, April 05, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

Swiss bank whistleblower arrested in Spain

Swiss bank whistleblower arrested in Spain

The judge, who will question the 46-year-old Thursday, "will decide whether he releases him or not as the extradition request is examined", said a spokesman for Spain's National Court, which deals with extradition cases.

HSBC's Swiss-based private bank, led by former UBS banker Franco Morra, reported a hefty pretax loss a year ago following a fine in France as well as provisions to settle probes still pending.

Hervé Falciani, who blew the whistle on HSBC in 2008, was arrested in Madrid.

Falciani's 2015 conviction in Switzerland was for corporate espionage - the court did not convict him of violating banking secrecy, nor could prosecutors make a charge of illegally collecting data, stick.

Falciani leaked a cache of documents allegedly indicating that HSBC's Swiss private banking arm helped more than 120,000 clients to hide €180.6 billion ($222 billion) from tax authorities, sparking the so-called "Swissleaks" scandal.

Falciani became an IT worker for HSBC in 2000 and moved to the bank's offices in Geneva in 2006.

But he did not attend his trial and has avoided Switzerland since.

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He took the client list in 2007 and went to Lebanon with his mistress the next year planning to sell the data.

The arrest on Wednesday, almost two years after Falciani's conviction was made final by Swiss courts, comes as Spain seeks the extradition from Switzerland of Marta Rovira, a prominent Catalan separatist politician considered key in the Spanish region's illegal independence bid.

Henzelin noted a "hypothesis", which he could not confirm, expressed by some that the arrest could be connected to a "sort of deal" between Spain and Switzerland over a possible transfer of Catalan separatists who are now on Swiss soil and are wanted by Spanish authorities.

Falciani then got in contact with European fiscal authorities and began passing them the pilfered information, which prompted numerous tax evasion audits.

He travelled to Spain by boat in July 2012 and was arrested in Barcelona on an global warrant seeking his extradition to Switzerland.

France, Austria, Belgium, Spain and Argentina launched investigations based on the information, but Switzerland's highest court rejected a French request for help in a case saying the data was stolen and therefore inadmissible.

Switzerland's fresh arrest warrant, issued last month, comes as two prominent Catalan separatist leaders have fled to Switzerland to avoid legal proceedings over their role in the region's independence drive.

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