Spain’s National Court has granted conditional freedom to a former HSBC bank employee who is wanted by Switzerland for stealing confidential data on thousands of customers with Swiss accounts.
The court ordered Hervé Falciani’s release on Tuesday based on the prosecutor’s recommendation, which argues that Falciani was cooperating with authorities in several European countries in investigations on tax, money-laundering, corruption and terrorism financing.
The prosecutor noted that Falciani had been detained for some time and that his extradition case could drag on.
He was ordered to hand over his passport, not to leave Spain and to appear before police every three days. He was also told to establish a residence in Spain and to inform authorities if he moved house.
Falciani, a French-Italian citizen, has been jailed provisionally since being arrested on July 1 in Barcelona on a Swiss warrant. He had previously fled from Switzerland to France.
Because he allegedly stole data on 24,000 customers of HSBC's Swiss subsidiary, Falciani potentially exposed many people to prosecution by tax authorities in their home countries.
Falciani, who obtained the information between late 2006 and early 2007 when he worked in the bank's information technology development, passed the list to French authorities.
Former French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, now head of the International Monetary Fund, later relayed the list to many European Union countries and the United States. France said there were up to 130,000 names involved.
Several Spanish political parties oppose Falciani's possible extradition, saying he is helping uncover tax fraud – a touchy issue right now in a country wracked by recession and with 25 per cent unemployment.
News reports said the names of some 700 Spaniards were on the HSBC list.
Switzerland, which has some of the world's strictest laws on banking secrecy, has faced strong pressure from its European neighbours and the United States to crack down on tax evasion.
swissinfo.ch and agencies