HSBC leaker Falciani detained in Spain at demand of Switzerland

In this file photo taken on October 28, 2015 Herve Falciani, the former HSBC employee who leaked documents alleging the bank helped clients evade millions of dollars in taxes, gestures as he gives a press conference in Divonne-les Bains. (AFP)
Updated 04 April 2018
0

HSBC leaker Falciani detained in Spain at demand of Switzerland

MADRID: Spanish police on Wednesday detained Herve Falciani, a former computer analyst at the Swiss branch of HSBC who leaked documents alleging the bank helped clients evade millions of dollars in taxes, a police source said.
“He was arrested in Madrid, in the street on the way to a conference,” a top police official told AFP, adding the arrest was made at the request of Switzerland, which is seeking his extradition.
The official did not say why Falciani, a French-Italian national, was wanted by Switzerland.
A Swiss court in 2015 convicted Falciani of aggravated industrial espionage and handed him a five-year prison sentence.
He did not attend his trial and has avoided Switzerland since.
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 euros ($222 billion) from tax authorities, sparking the so-called “Swissleaks” scandal.
While he is widely viewed as a whistleblower and hailed as a hero in countries where his leaked information is helping catch tax cheats, Swiss authorities prosecuted him for data theft, industrial espionage, and violating the country’s long-cherished banking secrecy laws.
“It is very regrettable that he was arrested, we don’t understand it,” the president of Spain’s tax inspectors union Gestha, Carlos Cruzado, told AFP, adding he witnessed Falciani’s detention as he arrived at a university to speak at a conference.
“The paradox is that he was detained at the entrance to a debate on the need to protect whistleblowers and his chair was left empty. We were going to debate the fact that Spain is one of the European countries where fewer measures have been implemented to protect whistleblowers,” Cruzado said.

Falciani became an IT worker for HSBC in 2000 and moved to the bank’s offices in Geneva in 2006.
The so-called “Snowden of tax evasion” and “the man who terrifies the rich” then obtained access to a massive database of encrypted customer information.
He took the client list in 2007 and went to Lebanon with his mistress the next year planning to sell the data. Swiss authorities described it as “cashing in.”
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.
Falciani then got in contact with European fiscal authorities and began passing them the pilfered information, which subsequently led to the prosecution of tax evaders including Arlette Ricci, heir to France’s Nina Ricci perfume empire, and the pursuit of Emilio Botin, the late chairman of the Spanish bank Santander.
He rejects that he was only seeking financial gain, insisting he had wanted to expose how banks support tax evasion and money laundering.

Falciani, 46, was arrested in Barcelona in July 2012 on an international warrant seeking his extradition to Switzerland after he arrived by boat from the port of Sete in France.
He then spent a couple of months in a Spanish prison.
In 2013, Spain’s High Court ruled against extraditing Falciani on the grounds that the charges he faced in Switzerland are not considered crimes under Spanish law.
In an interview with top-selling Spanish daily El Pais in 2013, Falciani said that about a month before he fled to Spain, US justice officials who he was collaborating with from Paris warned him his life was at risk.
“I had two options: start a new life in the United States or travel somewhere else to gain time. They told me that the only safe place in Europe would be Spain, which had used my information with success in important cases,” he told the newspaper.


US-China trade deal hopes grow as oil prices decline

Updated 19 June 2019
0

US-China trade deal hopes grow as oil prices decline

  • Data suggested a smaller-than-expected fall in American crude inventories
  • Preparations underway for Donald Trump to meet Xi Jinping next week at the G20 summit in Osaka

LONDON: Oil prices declined on Wednesday as data suggested a smaller-than-expected fall in American crude inventories, as hopes for a US-China trade deal continue to grow.
Brent crude futures were down 51 cents at $61.72 a barrel.
US West Texas Intermediate crude fell 25 cents to $53.65 a barrel. On Tuesday, it had recorded its biggest daily rise since early January.
After weeks of swelling, US crude stocks fell by 812,000 barrels last week to 482 million, the American Petroleum Institute said on Tuesday, a smaller fall than the 1.1-million-barrel drop analysts had expected.
Official estimates on US crude stockpiles from the US government’s Energy Information Administration are due during afternoon trading.
US President Donald Trump offered some support, saying preparations were underway for him to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping next week at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, amid hopes a trade deal could be thrashed out between the two powers. Trump has repeatedly threatened China with tariffs since winning office in 2016.
European Central Bank President Mario Draghi also offered a boost, saying on Tuesday that he would ease policy again if inflation failed to accelerate.
Tensions remain high in the Middle East after last week’s tanker attacks. Fears of a confrontation between Iran and the US have mounted, with Washington blaming Tehran, which has denied any role.
Trump said he was prepared to take military action to stop Iran having a nuclear bomb but left open whether he would approve the use of force to protect Gulf oil supplies.
On Wednesday, oil markets shrugged off a rocket attack on a site in southern Iraq used by foreign oil companies.
“It is interesting to note that the crude oil futures market could not rally on hawks planting bombs in the Strait of Hormuz but could rally on doves planting quantitative easing,” Petromatrix’s Olivier Jakob said in a note.
“This is an oil market that doesn’t know how to react when an oil tanker blows up but knows how to react when the head of a central bank makes some noise.”
Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries have agreed to meet on July 1, followed by a meeting with non-OPEC allies on July 2, after weeks of wrangling over dates.
OPEC and its allies will discuss whether to extend a deal on cutting 1.2 million barrels per day of production that runs out this month.