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Spain releases French whistleblower on bail over Swiss tax leak case

Hervé Falciani in Spain on 25 October 2017
Hervé Falciani in Spain on 25 October 2017 Jean-Philippe KSIAZEK / AFP

A Spanish judge on Thursday released French whistleblower Herve Falciani on bail. Falciani, one of the former HSBC employees behind the Swissleaks tax evasion revelations, was arrested in Madrid on Wednesday at the request of Switzerland as he was on his way to a conference about the need to protect whistleblowers.


The 46-year-old French-Italian national worked for the Swiss branch of HSBC leaked information in 2008 that alleged HSBC helped clients evade billions of dollars in taxes.

This led to the prosecution of tax evaders including Arlette Ricci, heir to France's Nina Ricci perfume empire, and the pursuit of Emilio Botin, the late chairman of the Spanish bank Santander.

The National Court judge in Madrid has seized Falciani's passport and said Falciani would need authorisation to leave the town where he lives and must appear before court once a week while his extradition request is considered.

Snowden of tax evasion

A Swiss court sentenced Falciani to five years in prison in 2015.

But he was not present in court, having taken refuge in France.

Falciani had already been arrested in Barcelona in July 2012 on an international warrant issued by Switzerland after he arrived by boat from a French port.

He then spent several months in a Spanish prison.

But in 2013 the National Court finally blocked his extradition on the grounds that the charges he faced in Switzerland are not considered crimes under Spanish law.

The court's ruling accused HSBC of "seriously irregular" behaviour and defended Falciani, "who, thanks to his collaboration, allowed information to be handed over to various authorities in various states including Spain".

Falciani rejects that he was only seeking financial gain, insisting he had wanted to expose how banks support tax evasion and money laundering.

He has become known as the "Snowden of tax evasion" - a reference to former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden who in 2013 revealed the scope of the US government's electronic surveillance programme.

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