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France can't use stolen bank data for searches

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09:38 CET+01:00

France's highest appeals court has ruled that, due to the data's illicit origin, authorities may not conduct searches based on a list stolen by a banker in Geneva of 3,000 people suspected of tax evasion.

French authorities in January 2009 acted on a Swiss warrant and seized data about global banking giant HSBC's customers from former computer specialist Herve Falciani's home in France.

The decryption of the stolen files held by the former HSBC employee had allowed for the identification of 127,000 accounts belonging to 79,000 people, officials said at the time.

French authorities then used the information to launch tax evasion probes into individuals, including searches of homes to find evidence.

A complaint by one of those targeted led a French appeals court last year to overturn the decision allowing the searches based on the HSBC list.

The French budget ministry, which had appealed that ruling, said it had only a limited impact as it concerned the home searches and that the HSBC list was one of many pieces of information it had.

The use by French authorities of data stolen in Geneva also provoked a sharp diplomatic row, but eventually helped fuel pressure on Switzerland over tax evasion.

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