HSBC whistleblower Hervé Falciani given five-year sentence

Former employee leaked information on bank’s clients and their tax situation

Hervé Falciani may not serve any time in a Swiss prison since France typically does not extradite its own citizens. Photograph: Denis Balibouse/Reuters

Hervé Falciani may not serve any time in a Swiss prison since France typically does not extradite its own citizens. Photograph: Denis Balibouse/Reuters

 

Hervé Falciani, a former employee of HSBC’s Geneva private bank who leaked information on clients and their tax situation, has been sentenced to five years in prison for aggravated industrial espionage, the bank said on Friday.

HSBC said it welcomed the ruling on Falciani, a 43-year-old French citizen who had been on trial in Switzerland.

HSBC’s Swiss unit has been in the spotlight since 2008, when Falciani, a former IT employee there, fled Geneva with files that were leaked to the media and were alleged to show evidence of tax evasion by clients. French newspaper Le Monde has said it identified more than 106,000 clients.

Falciani, who is based in France, did not attend his trial and stayed out of Switzerland while it was going on.

The Guardian reported that Carlo Bulletti, for the prosecution, rejected the notion of Falciani as a whistleblower, saying his actions, including approaches to banks in Lebanon, suggested he had wanted to sell the stolen data.

“The whole construct of the white knight is just a web of lies,” said Mr Bulletti.

Falciani may not serve any time in a Swiss prison since France typically does not extradite its own citizens, and there are no legal proceedings against him in France.

Falciani’s lawyer – Marc Henzelin – did not immediately respond to a request for a comment.

Additional reporting: Reuters