Thursday 14 December 2017

The whistleblower

Herve Falciani - HSBC whistleblower
Herve Falciani - HSBC whistleblower

On December 22, 2008, police in Switzerland detained Herve Falciani in Geneva. They interrogated the computer systems analyst for several hours, before releasing him under strict instructions to return the following morning.

Mr Falciani, however, rented a car, collected his wife and two daughters and made a beeline for the French border. He telephoned the Swiss police from southern France, telling them he wanted to spend Christmas with his family in France, but that he would return in the new year.

The then-36-year-old dual French-Italian national did not make good on this promise, however, and Swiss authorities have been trying to get their hands on him ever since, thus far to no avail.

Depending on who you believe, Herve Falciani is either a courageous whistleblower responsible for exposing industrial-scale fraud at one of the world's largest banks that deprived governments in dozens of countries of many millions of pounds, or a cynical, calculating criminal who maliciously stole sensitive data on tens of thousands of clients with the intention of lining his own pockets.

Herve Falciani grew up in Monaco, which, he says, made going into the financial sector an "obvious choice". In 2000 he joined HSBC in the principality, before transferring to HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) in Geneva, Switzerland six years later.

Between 2006 and 2007, he collected confidential data on more than 106,000 of the bank's customers from more than 200 countries, pertaining to more than 300,000 private accounts. Many of them belonged to prominent figures in business, film, music, sport, and even the heads of royal families.

Irish Independent

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