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Hervé Falciani Spain denies Swiss extradition request for HSBC whistleblower

Hervé Falciani

Hervé Falciani (left) leaves court in Madrid last week

(Keystone)

Spain’s High Court has rejected an extradition request from Switzerland against Hervé Falciani for leaking details of thousands of clients of HSBC’s private bank in Geneva, the court said in a ruling. 

Hailed as a hero by some for triggering investigations in several countries, Swiss courts sentenced Falciani in absentia to five years in jail for leaking details of HSBC clients. He said he suspected many of them were evading tax. 

The Spanish court on Tuesday denied for the second time the extradition request against Falciani, a French citizen who worked for HSBC in Geneva, over alleged industrial sabotage in 2008 because the charges included in the Swiss ruling are not considered a crime in Spain. 

“The Spanish Criminal Code does not include any charge similar to the crime of “aggravated financial espionage” for which the Swiss justice had sentenced Falciani to a five-year prison sentence,” the court said. 

Appeal

The Spanish ruling can be appealed within three days, although Switzerland's Federal Office of Justice, which lodged the extradition request, declined to comment on it.

If Switzerland were to appeal, a special section of the High Court would rule on it, but the Spanish government would have the final say as extradition requests are usually submitted to the Justice Ministry.

Falciani was arrested in Madrid in April while on his way to speak at a conference on whistleblowing. Spain's High Court released him the next day, but ordered him to remain in Spain while the extradition request was considered.

Falciani had been detained once before in Spain on Switzerland's request - on a trip in 2012. He was released after the High Court ruled against his extradition.

On Tuesday, the Spanish court said Switzerland's extradition request was identical to that of March 2013 and it deferred to the previous rejection in its ruling.

France, Austria, Belgium, Spain and Argentina launched investigations based on the information leaked by Falciani, but Swiss authorities insist the data was stolen and therefore legally inadmissible.

Reuters/ts

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