Former HSBC IT worker Hervé Falciani, who leaked the details of thousands of customers at the bank’s Switzerland-based private banking operation, has been arrested in Spain and faces extradition to Switzerland.
While the data was later used by authorities to investigate tax evasion, Falciani was apprehended following the issuing of an international arrest warrant. Authorities in Switzerland claim he was going to sell the customer data.
Just over 10 years ago, the former computer technical analyst stole the details of thousands of HSBC Private Bank customers. Police seized the data in 2009 after Falciani had fled to France – but rather than arrest him, authorities began using the data to investigate tax evasion. The details also implicated the bank, he later told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
In December 2014, the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland accused Falciani, who now lives in Spain, of industrial espionage. Eleven months later he was sentenced to five years in prison in Switzerland for that crime.
In an interview on the Today programme in 2015, Falciani said HSBC’s IT systems were unable to give auditors sufficient oversight to identify tax avoidance in its Swiss private banking business.
“The IT system is core to the bank,” he said. “The IT systems had major issues. It was impossible [for HSBC] to have sufficient oversight.”
Falciani added that the system suffered instabilities and it had been impossible to deploy system improvements for eight months.
When asked if the information he revealed also implicated the bank itself, he replied: “Yes. The information contained everything needed for an internal audit. We are dealing with copies of many internal systems of the bank with names, relationships, contracts, transactions.”
Read more about the case
- Swiss financial sector regulator FINMA is investigating the theft of data from up to 24,000 clients of the Geneva private bank of HSBC Holdings.
- Hervé Falciani, a former HSBC IT worker and whistleblower, says the bank’s IT systems were unstable and had gone without updates for eight months.