• Switzerland's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Court case against HSBC whistleblower adjourned
Hervé Falciani: decides against returning to Switzerland. Photo: AFP

Court case against HSBC whistleblower adjourned

Malcolm Curtis/The Local/AFP · 12 Oct 2015, 10:51

Published: 12 Oct 2015 10:51 GMT+02:00

Falciani, 43, now living in Spain, failed to appear in the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona in the canton of Ticino on Monday to defend himself against charges of violating Swiss banking secrecy laws and other offences.

Federal prosecutor Carlo Bulletti requested the adjournment in view of Falciani’s non-appearance.

The whistle-blower has already said that he would not appear in the court for Monday’s court hearing or at another one set for November 2nd, the ATS news agency reported.

Falciani copied data relating to 130,000 suspected tax evaders with hundreds of millions of dollars in accounts at HSBC and since 2009 has been cooperating with various European countries by providing this information to governments.

The Franco-Italian faces criminal charges in Switzerland for unauthorized data procurement, economic espionage and violation of business secrets, in addition to breaching Swiss banking secrecy laws.

The prosecutor Bulletti has appealed to Falciani to return to Switzerland to explain himself and defend his behaviour, ATS reported.

Falciani is alleged to have copied the details of HSBC Private Bank accounts between 2006 and 2008 and then subsequently made the data available to public institutions and private companies in different countries between 2008 and 2014, according to court information.

While Falciani is widely viewed as a whistleblower and hailed as a hero in countries where his leaked information is helping net tax cheats, Swiss authorities are prosecuting him.
   
"Do I have the right to a just and fair trial? Maybe, but can one really call this a trial?" Falciani told the Swiss business weekly HandelsZeitung last week.
   
The trial had been set to run through to October 20th.
   
Falciani became an IT worker for HSBC in 2000 and moved to the bank's offices in Geneva in 2006.
   
The so-called "Snowden of tax evasion" and "the man who terrifies the rich" obtained access to a massive database of encrypted customer information.
   
In 2007 Falciani took the names of over 120,000 clients and by 2008 headed for Lebanon with his mistress and a plan to sell the data.

Swiss authorities described it as "cashing in".
   
Yet suspicious bankers in Lebanon were not interested in buying the dubiously sourced client list, and at least one instead tipped off counterparts in Switzerland to Falciani's activities.
   
After his plan to sell the data fell apart, Falciani got in contact with European fiscal authorities and began passing them the pilfered information, which prompted numerous tax evasion audits.

After an initial interrogation by Geneva cantonal police about his activities, he left Switzerland in December 2008 and has not returned since.

Falciani was arrested in Barcelona, Spain in 2012 but was released after Spanish authorities, who have used his stolen bank data to identify tax cheats, refused a request for his extradition by Switzerland.

The French government has also refused to extradite him.

Story continues below…

Falciani’s list is credited with identifying wealthy tax evaders, including Arlette Ricci, 73, French heir to the Nina Ricci perfume business, who earlier this year was sentenced in Paris to a year in jail and fined €1 million for tax fraud and money laundering.

Ricci, 73, has appealed the sentence.

Spanish banker Emilio Bottin, meanwhile, was ordered by Spanish tax authorities to pay €299 million based on information provided by Falciani. 

For more news from Switzerland, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Malcolm Curtis/The Local/AFP (news@thelocal.ch)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Prison for woman who faked Swiss airport bomb threat
Geneva airport. Photo: eGuide Travel

The 41-year-old French mother of four provoked a massive security scare at Geneva airport.

Hot weather causes forest fire fears in Valais
Bonfires are traditionally lit to celebrate Swiss National Day. Photo: Marcus Gyger/Swiss Tourism

National Day fireworks and bonfires should be staged with caution, says the canton.

Swiss National Day: five traditions all expats should try
Want to learn to play the alphorn? File photo: Christof Sonderegger/Swiss Tourism

Celebrate Swiss National Day on August 1st by learning these proud Swiss traditions.

Swiss bank bounces back from losses
File photo: Emmanuel Dunand

Credit Suisse is back in profit following a first quarter dip.

Man falls to his death over dropped ski pole
The site of the accident. Photo: Valais cantonal police

Frenchman dies after he went to pick up a dropped ski pole and fell 200 metres down a mountain.

Young migrant injured after jumping from window
The girl was staying in a centre for asylum seekers in Zweisimmen. Photo: Vasile Cotovanu

A 15-year-old girl due to be deported from Switzerland is in hospital after jumping from a window.

Woman faked airport bomb threat over marital tiff
The bomb threat caused a big security alert at Geneva airport. File photo: Richard Juilliart

Wednesday's bomb threat was invented by a woman who wanted to get revenge on her husband’s mistress.

Bencic joins Federer in opting out of Rio

The Swiss is the latest top 20 tennis star to pull out of Olympics.

Swiss sports court heads to Rio Olympics
CAS has relocated from Lausanne (pictured) to Rio to deal with doping matters. Photo: CAS

The Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has temporarily relocated to Rio so it can make rulings over Olympic doping from the scene.

Police step up security at Geneva airport after tip-off
File photo: eGuide Travel

UPDATE: Police gradually withdraw security measures put in place this morning after an unspecified threat against the building.

File photo: Chase Elliott Clark
Lifestyle
Study: a fifth of Swiss spy on neighbours
Photo: Katwarn.de
National
Switzerland mulls alarm text message service
Photo: The Local
National
Study: grazing cows are worse for the environment
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Photo: Kecko
National
Terror fears trigger Swiss run on guns
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Photo: Commune d'Ayent
National
Spectacular Valais ‘bisse’ to feature on new banknote
Photo: Swiss Post
National
Swiss Post moves to accept debit cards – sometimes
Photo: Chris Marquardt
Lifestyle
Police break up dispute over late-night laundry
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Photo: Grand Tours Project
Features
Why you should get on your bike in Switzerland
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Photo: The Local
Society
Swiss village tells landlords: don’t rent homes to refugees
Photo: Rolf Krahl/Christophe G
International
Survey: world willing to pay more for ‘Swissness’
Photo: The Local
International
Chaos in Como after Swiss send back refugees
Photo: AFP/The Local
Lifestyle
Nine top celebrity hotspots in Switzerland
Photo: Graubunden police
National
World-class Swiss climber Norbert Joos dies on ‘home mountain’
Photo: Kathleen Waters
Society
Italian ‘ignored’ by Swiss schools in language wars
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Photo: Whitepod
Features
The quirkiest places to stay in Switzerland
International
Migrant busted trying to sneak into Switzerland in a suitcase
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Photo: Jonathan Kos-Read
National
Basel suffers wettest six months for 150 years
Photo: Georges Gobet/AFP
Technology
Why Swiss science could suffer badly from Brexit fallout
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Photo: Robert Valencia
International
Swiss couple in Nicaragua told to give back adopted daughter
Photo: Zurich cantonal police
National
Police hunt prisoner on the run in Zurich murder case
Photo: Christoph G
Politics
Switzerland sets out law on expelling foreign criminals
Photo: Bernacqua
Lifestyle
Drone shocks nudists at Swiss waterpark
Photo: Basel Justice and Security Dept
Lifestyle
New signs lay down law and order for Basel prostitutes
4,571
jobs available