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
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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.


Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank picks Barclays to advise on merger

Updated 1 min 23 sec ago
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Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank picks Barclays to advise on merger

  • Potential merger involves ADCB, Union National Bank (UNB) and Al Hilal Bank
  • If it goes ahead, a merger of the trio could create an entity with around $113 billion in assets

ABU DHABI: Barclays has been appointed by Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB) to advise on a potential merger plan involving Union National Bank (UNB) and Al Hilal Bank, banking sources told Reuters.
The merger, announced by the banks in September, is the latest consolidation among state-owned companies in the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) capital.
ADCB, majority owned by the Abu Dhabi government and the second largest bank in the emirate after First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB), declined to comment. Barclays also declined to comment.
If it goes ahead, a merger of the trio could create an entity with around $113 billion in assets, according to Refinitiv data, and the UAE’s third-biggest lender after FAB and Emirates NBD.
A separate source said two banks could be created out of the consolidation, with the conventional banking units of ADCB and UNB merging to create one lender.
Another could be formed through combining the Islamic banking units of ADCB and UNB, along with Al Hilal.
AlKhaleej newspaper reported the same arrangement was being considered last month, citing sources.
The tie-up was at an early stage, UAE Central Bank governor Mubarak Rashed Al-Mansoori told reporters last week on the sidelines of a conference, adding he expected more consolidation in the future.
FAB was created by last year’s merger between National Bank of Abu Dhabi and First Gulf Bank.
The emirate of Sharjah is weighing a merger between three of its banks — Bank of Sharjah, Invest Bank and United Arab Bank, Reuters reported in September, citing sources.