Swiss whistleblower Herve Falciani received a boost in his case to remain outside the jurisdiction of the authorities in his home country after Spain’s High Court rejected a second extradition request by Bern to Falcini turned over to Swiss law enforcement officials for a 2008 leak of information detailing how thousands of EU citizens hold HSBC Switzerland-based accounts and are involved in tax avoidance schemes.
The Monaco-born Falciani is an IT expert who had worked for HSBC Switzerland since 2000. In 2008, he left HSBC with 79,000 data files that detailed dozens of tax evasion cases worth hundreds-of-billions of euros.
Falciani has been cooperating with Spanish financial authorities since arriving in the country in 2009, which has led Madrid to pass on vital information about tax dodgers to the internal revenue services of other EU Member States as well as Argentina, most of which have led to thousands of investigations and convictions.
In November 2017, HSBC was forced to settle a French tax evasion investigation by paying €300 million. The Swiss courts have, however, convicted Falciani in absentia and sentenced him to five years in jail for ‘industrial sabotage’.
Bern insists that Falciani stole financial data and any evidence he may have passed on would be legally inadmissible. His leaked information has led to the conviction of high-profile HSBC clients, including Arlette Ricci, the heir of a ladies’ fragrance empire.
Falciani was first arrested in Barcelona in 2012, but Spain rejected an initial extradition request as the due to the fact he was being charged with a crime that does not exist in Spain.
Falciani was arrested in Madrid in April of this year while en route to a conference on whistleblowing that was being held at Comillas University. Though the charge was changed to “financial espionage,” the Court ruled that the Swiss extradition request was identical to the one filed six years before.
Spanish Prosecutor Teresa Sandoval, who opposed Falciani’s extradition, argues that the Swiss authorities had tried to cash in on the data trove by trying to sell them in Lebanon. Sandoval argued that Falciani had only shared data with public legal authorities and never with private individuals, which does not constitute a crime under Spanish law.
Swiss authorities have yet to decide whether Bern plans to file an appeal.