HSBC whistleblower gets 5 years in jail for data theft, espionage

  • Agencies
  • Updated: Nov 27, 2015 19:25 IST
File photo of Herve Falciani, a French citizen and former employee of HSBC Private Bank in Geneva. (AFP Photo)

Herve Falciani, the former HSBC employee whose disclosures uncorked the “Swissleaks” scandal on bank-supported tax evasion, was sentenced in absentia on Friday to five years in prison, Switzerland’s ATS news agency said.

Falciani, who worked as an IT specialist with HSBC, had been charged in the southern Swiss town of Bellinzona with industrial espionage, data theft and violating Switzerland’s long-cherished banking secrecy laws.

Falciani leaked documents alleging the bank helped clients evade millions of dollars in taxes. He refused to travel from his home in France to take part in the trial.

The former HSBC employee leaked a cache of documents allegedly indicating the bank’s Swiss private banking arm helped more than 120,000 clients hide 180.6 billion euros ($205.4 billion) from tax authorities.

He is widely viewed as a whistleblower and his actions have been hailed in countries where the leaked information is helping net tax cheats, but Swiss authorities maintain Falciani was only interested in “cashing in”.

Rejecting Falciani’s accusation that Indian authorities were sitting on black money information, India recently said he was raising a “wrong hue and cry” and asserted that details on illicit funds should be shared without any pre-condition.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley emphasised that the government would “take action” on the illicit fund menace and said government offered a reward in exchange for information to Falciani.

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