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Spanish court refuses extradition request against HSBC whistleblower Falciani

Switzerland wants former bank employee to face secrecy charges after stealing tax-avoidance data

Spain’s High Court has turned down Switzerland’s request to extradite Hervé Falciani, the former HSBC Private Bank employee whose tax-evasion whistleblowing activities have become a cause célèbre. The French–Italian computer expert, who in 2008 made off with files detailing 130,000 of the Geneva-based bank’s clients, will not be required to return to Switzerland to face four charges relating to his data grab.

The court ruled that the principle of “double incrimination” is not satisfied in this case, meaning that the offenses of which Falciani is accused are not listed as such in Spanish criminal law. The Monaco-born IT expert was arrested in Switzerland – where he is accused of financial espionage, violation of the bank secrecy law, revealing commercial secrets and stealing clients’ private data – but he left the country, finally being arrested again in Spain last July.

The High Court in Madrid also considered that the information Falciani had facilitated to the tax authorities in France, Spain, Germany, Italy and the United States was related to criminal activities that are “in no way eligible for legitimate protection.”

Falciani, who had been released on bail for by the Spanish courts before his April 15 extradition hearing, is now free to travel outside Spain. Had the court ruled in favor of the Swiss request, the Spanish government would have had the last word on the extradition process.

Information released by the former bank employee has allowed the Spanish state to recover more than 300 million euros of lost taxes between 2010 and 2011, with further related investigations still in progress.

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