Spain arrests whistleblower in HSBC tax evasion scandal

Falciani leaked a cache of documents allegedly indicating that HSBC's Swiss private banking arm helped more than 120,000 clients to hide €180.6 billion from tax authorities sparking the so-called'Swissleaks scandal

A Spanish judge has released on bail the whistleblower Herve Falciani, a former HSBC computer analyst detained in Madrid at the request of Switzerland for leaking documents alleging widespread tax evasion, a judicial source said Thursday.

French national Herve Falciani was sentenced in late 2015 to five years in prison for economic espionage.

He was arrested in Madrid on Wednesday at the request of Switzerland just as he was on his way to a conference about the need to protect whistleblowers.

But he did not attend his trial and has avoided Switzerland since. The Swiss court also convicted him for illegally obtaining data, breach of business confidentiality and of bank secrecy.

Falciani leaked documents allegedly indicating that HSBC's Swiss private banking arm helped more than 120,000 clients to hide US$222 billion from tax authorities. HSBC agreed to a penalty of 40 million Swiss francs ($42 million) to end a probe by the Geneva prosecutor's office into allegations of money laundering and avoid criminal charges.

The police acted on an worldwide detention and extradition order from Swiss authorities dated March 19.

Yet suspicious bankers in Lebanon were not interested in buying the dubiously sourced client list and at least one tipped off their Swiss counterparts to Falciani's activities.

Mr Falciani said he wanted to expose massive tax evasion via Swiss accounts.

A Spanish court rejected his extradition in 2013 when he entered Spain in 2012 on the basis that the crimes he was being accused of weren't subject to prosecution in Spain.

He travelled to Spain by boat in July 2012 and was arrested in Barcelona on an global warrant seeking his extradition to Switzerland.

It is a sensitive time in Spanish-Swiss relations, as Spain has issued an worldwide arrest warrant for a Catalan separatist leader, Marta Rovira, who fled to Switzerland in March.

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