HSBC Whistleblower Gets 5 Years

HSBC whistleblower given five years’ jail over biggest leak in banking history

Hervé Falciani sentenced in his absence for financial espionage by federal court for exposing wrongdoing at HSBC’s private Swiss bank Juliette Garside   @JulietteGarside Friday 27 November 2015 17.47 GMT Last modified on Friday 27 November 2015 22.43 GMTThe whistleblower who exposed wrongdoing at HSBC’s Swiss private bank has been sentenced to five years in prison by a Swiss court. 

Hervé Falciani, a former IT worker, was convicted in his absence for the biggest leak in banking history. He is currently living in France, where he sought refuge from Swiss justice, and did not attend the trial.

Hervé Falciani
Hervé Falciani has sought refuge in France. Photograph: Denis Balibouse/Reuters
The leak of secret bank account details formed the basis of revelations – by the Guardian, the BBC, Le Monde and other media outlets – which showed that HSBC’s Swiss banking arm turned a blind eye to illegal activities of arms dealers and helped wealthy people evade taxes. 

While working on the database of HSBC’s Swiss private bank, Falciani downloaded the details of about 130,000 holders of secret Swiss accounts. The information was handed to French investigators in December 2008 and then circulated to other European governments.It was used to prosecute tax evaders including Arlette Ricci, the heir to France’s Nina Ricci perfume empire, and to pursue Emilio Botín, the late chairman of Spain’s Santander bank. Switzerland’s federal prosecutor had requested a record six-year term for Falciani for aggravated industrial espionage, data theft and violation of commercial and banking secrecy.It was the longest sentence ever demanded by the confederation’s public ministry in a case of banking data theft. The trial was also the first conducted by the country’s federal criminal court in which the accused had not been present.

The defendant’s lawyers had demanded a reduced sentence, of between two and three years, “compatible with the granting of a reprieve”. 

Falciani himself refused to appear in the dock, on the grounds that he would not be allowed a fair trial. He described the process as a “parody of justice”.