Ex-HSBC employee and whistle-blower Hervé Falciani has lashed out at the Swiss banking system for helping multinationals evade taxes through offshore schemes. He has also demanded that Switzerland recognise the role of whistle-blowers.
“In order to survive the Swiss had developed mercenary activities on a grand scale. These are the famous Swiss Guards,” he stated in an interview with the French paper Sud Ouest that was published on Wednesday. “Today, the same principle is at work but at the service of multinationals through the means of offshore financing.”
The former IT worker stole details of client accounts held at HSBC’s private bank in Geneva and passed them on to the French authorities. The data, which is believed to contain details of some 106,000 clients, was later passed to other countries by former French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde – the so-called ‘Lagarde list’.
Falciani was questioned by Swiss police, but fled to France in 2008, having been released to visit his family in Geneva. He has since evaded Swiss justice after unsuccessful attempts to extradite him from France and Spain, where he also lived for a short time.
On November 27, Falciani was sentenced in absentia to a five-year prison sentence for “economic espionage” by the Swiss Federal Criminal Court.
In his latest media interview, the whistle-blower called this sentence a “political condemnation” of his actions.
"I am guilty because Switzerland defends bank secrecy,” he said. “But according to the interests of the rest of the community, it is Switzerland that is guilty by protecting this kind of activity."
Falciani added that while obtaining information relating to tax avoidance was important, it is also vital to understand why this information had remained a secret for so long.
"Why was it impossible to get this information without being prosecuted by the Swiss justice system? Why is there no whistle-blower status?" he demanded.
swissinfo.ch and agencies