HSBC employee who leaked names of tax evaders freed on conditional bail

Spanish High Court will now decide on extradition of Hervé Falciani

Former HSBC employee Hervé Falciani
Former HSBC employee Hervé FalcianiVALERY HACHE (AFP)

The High Court in Madrid has decided to release Hervé Falciani, the French-Italian former HSBC employee who leaked online information about 130,000 tax evaders with accounts at the bank. Falciani, who is wanted by the authorities in Switzerland, had been held in prison since July 1.

Falciani will have to report to a police station once every three days while his extradition is dealt with. He has also been prohibited from leaving Spanish territory.

In their court ruling, the High Court judges made clear that even though Falciani has been released on conditional bail, he could still be extradited. "His release, with or without alternative measures of provisional prison, will not be an obstacle for a new arrest, nor for his extradition, should such a request arrive after the expiry of the aforementioned deadline," the document reads.

The release of Falciani was influenced by a favorable report from the public prosecutor, which drew particular attention to the time that he had already spent behind bars and his cooperative attitude with a number of European Union states in their investigations into financial crimes such as tax evasion, money laundering, financing terrorism and corruption.

The judges also took into account the fact that the extradition process could take some time, given that supplementary evidence is required before a ruling can be made in the case.

In the eyes of the authorities in Switzerland, Falciani is a thief; a contemptible individual who, with his actions, has broken one of the golden rules of the banking sector: confidentiality.

Falciani is wanted in Switzerland, and has been held in prison since July 1

France, Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States and Spain, however, have already used the information he revealed to uncover hundreds of tax evaders, all of whom were taking advantage of Switzerland's opaque bank accounts to stash away millions of euros without paying any tax on them in their home countries.

Falciani arrived in Barcelona on July 1 by boat. When he showed his passport at the port, customs officials were notified that he was subject to an international order for his detention, issued by the authorities in Bern. He was then detained by the Spanish police, leaving the dilemma over what to do with this particular hero/villain in the hands of the High Court, which will have to come to a decision over his extradition.

Falciani has already put his cards on the table, however. He has offered to place the valuable information he possesses at the disposition of the Spanish justice system, to aid in the discovery of yet more tax evaders.

The Spanish tax agency said that the names already passed on as a result of the leaked information from Facliani constituted "the biggest regularization process in the history of the Treasury."

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