French lawmakers quiz ex-HSBC employee who leaked client data

Tue Jul 2, 2013 11:56am EDT
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By Lionel Laurent

PARIS (Reuters) - A former HSBC (HSBA.L: Quote) employee wanted in Switzerland for leaking the details of tens of thousands of bank accounts gave evidence on Tuesday to French lawmakers trying to tighten rules against tax evasion.

Herve Falciani spent four hours describing ways he said the bank helped its clients sidestep taxes using various loopholes and exemptions under national laws, according to two Socialist deputies who met with him in closed session.

"Mr Falciani told us some extremely interesting things," said one of the deputies, Yann Galut. "He indicated to us ... various examples of dysfunction that we will now examine."

Galut and fellow National Assembly deputy Christian Eckert said they would use Falciani's information to help draft a new law to fight tax evasion.

"He said there were entire (bank) departments ... dedicated to staying one step ahead of the law and that we were not well-equipped enough," said Galut, praising Falciani as a whistleblower who revealed tax evasion on an "industrial" scale.

An HSBC spokesman said the bank could not comment on the hearing itself, as it had not been officially informed.

"In general, Mr. Falciani has made many statements but the only proven fact remains that he stole confidential data from the bank in 2008, a criminal offence under Swiss law," the spokesman said. "HSBC complies with the law in all the territories in which it operates."

Governments are cracking down on tax avoidance in the wake of the financial crisis, raising the pressure on countries such as Switzerland whose laws on client confidentiality make it easier for foreigners to hide wealth from the tax man.   Continued...

Herve Falciani, an ex-HSBC employee wanted in Switzerland on charges of stealing data on bank accounts, speaks to the media after a French parliamentary hearing at the National Assembly in Paris July 2, 2013. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer