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.


Global consumer giants like Unilever, Nestle head online to lift earnings

Updated 4 min 45 sec ago
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Global consumer giants like Unilever, Nestle head online to lift earnings

LABEL: CONSUMER GOODS

Unilever, P&G and Nestle chasing subscription customers
Revenues and consumer data are attractions
Business model has not always worked in the past

LONDON: Major consumer companies including Unilever, Procter & Gamble and Nestle are chasing consumers who want food and household goods delivered automatically, even though this kind of business has not always worked.
The companies are pitching new online subscription services, which promise stable revenues, lower delivery costs and valuable data about customers.
The world’s biggest packaged food company, Nestle, whose Nespresso coffee is already a sizeable subscription business, recently launched a subscription program for nutritional drinks in Japan and expanded ReadyRefresh, an online bottled water service, in the United States.
It also wants to expand the Tails.com subscription pet food from Britain to continental Europe, one of its executives told Reuters. It is testing the service in France for a possible launch this year.
Unilever on Monday will launch its Skinsei brand in the United States after testing, offering “personalized” skincare by subscription. Unilever expanded its Dollar Shave Club subscription razor service to include cologne and beard oil in 2018 and toothpaste in 2017.
Meanwhile, Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest home and personal care company, expanded its Gillette on Demand razor subscription service to Canada. Subscribers can text when they are ready for their next shipment.
Selling directly lets manufacturers skirt retailers, giving them more profit and control over pricing, promotions and merchandising. This helps when retailers such as Amazon and Sainsbury’s are pressing consumer product companies for discounts and pouring resources into own-label products.
Subscription selling gives them guaranteed revenues, a better picture of customers and can make goods cheaper to deliver.
“They’re getting it to you on a specific date, but they don’t have to get it to you in one or two days,” said retail analyst Scott Mushkin at Wolfe Research. “It’s a way for them to manage down their logistics and distribution costs.”
Amazon has offered discounts since 2006 with its Subscribe and Save program, which gives people up to 15 percent off when they sign up for repeat deliveries of household items.
It is now “a multi-billion dollar business inside Amazon,” said Tom Furphy, CEO of venture capital firm Consumer Equity Partners and former vice president of Amazon’s consumables unit, which launched the service.
Liz Cadman, founder of mysubscriptionaddiction.com, said children’s educational boxes were the US website’s hottest category in 2018, followed by grooming, make-up and beauty. Biggest losers were snacks, clothing and pet goods, she said.
The trouble with subscriptions, analysts say, is high cancelation rates as consumers get bored, high marketing costs, costly delivery and the fact that people often end up with goods they don’t want.
Mondelez International has suspended its Oreo Cookie Club, a program rolled out last year. For $20 per month, subscribers got a box containing Oreos in different flavours, with recipe cards, candy and merchandise such as Oreo-branded socks, sunglasses or cups.
After three months, Ruby Scarbrough canceled her subscription, saying in an online review that she could buy the cookies more cheaply at a store.
Jeff Jarrett, global head of e-commerce at Mondelez, pointed to the challenges of delivering mass-market snacks economically and keeping customers interested.
Nobody has “cracked the code” for snack subscriptions, he said, though Mondelez may give its Oreo club another shot, likely with more flavours, better merchandise or a better online experience.
General Mills axed its Nibblr subscription snack business in 2015 after 18 months. A similar project from Kellogg, reportedly planned for that year, never materialized. Walmart shut its Goodies subscription snack business in 2013 after a year.
While subscriptions delight some consumers, they frustrate others because “you end up with too much of the product or too little,” Procter & Gamble CFO Jon Moeller told Reuters.
Subscriptions represent about 10 percent of all US online sales, and more than 1 percent of all retail sales, said Burt Flickinger, managing director of consumer consulting firm Strategic Resources Group.
He said subscriptions are the hottest part of the industry, growing more than 17 percent a year and outpacing overall online sales, which are growing more than 12 percent. He said subscriptions may exceed 10 percent of the US retail market in five years and 15 percent in 10 years.
Euromonitor International says subscription shaving clubs, including Dollar Shave and Harry’s, took about 12 percent of the $2.1 billion US market for men’s razors and blades in 2017, up from 6.4 percent two years earlier. But Dollar Shave’s sales have slowed dramatically, with Unilever in October citing growth of around 10 percent year-to-date, compared to more than 50 percent in 2016, the year it bought the brand.
Unilever said a slowdown was not unusual but it was “pleased with performance” at Dollar Shave, whose North American business would be close to breakeven this year.
Unilever’s global brand vice president of skincare, Valentina Ciobanu, told Reuters the company wants to make its subscriptions more flexible, because consumers demand options when they buy.
“We don’t force you to subscribe at the beginning,” Ciobanu said about the Skinsei brand, which she created inside the company. Skinsei aimed to keep shoppers loyal in part by making changes to the products it recommends based on the season of the year and other factors, she said.
Ciobanu said Skinsei’s products could be combined into more than one million skincare regimens. She declined to give sales projections.
However, she and other executives said it was unclear whether subscription brands would take off or remain niche.
“For now it’s still early adopters. The question mark is how long will it take to become more mass, and I think nobody has the answer to that question,” said Bernard Meunier, who runs Nestle’s Purina Petcare business in Europe, Middle East and North Africa.