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Ex-HSBC staffer accused of trying to sell data in Lebanon.

Summary: Switzerland has charged a former computer analyst at HSBC's private bank in Geneva with industrial espionage and breaching the country's secrecy laws for passing confidential client data to foreign authorities.

ZURICH: Switzerland has charged a former computer analyst at HSBC's private bank in Geneva with industrial espionage and breaching the country's secrecy laws for passing confidential client data to foreign authorities.

Herve Falciani gave prosecutors in France and Spain data on thousands of Swiss bank accounts. He has previously told Reuters that he was a whistleblower trying to help governments track down citizens who used accounts in Switzerland to evade paying tax.

But Switzerland's attorney general, which did not identify Falciani by name, said Thursday that the former IT analyst had tried to profit from the data. It accused him of trying to sell the information to banks in Lebanon.

"Sometimes celebrated as a hero abroad, the Franco-Italian national is now to answer for his alleged crimes before a Swiss court. The Swiss Criminal Procedure Code does not exclude the possibility of holding a court trial of the accused person in absentia," the attorney general's office said in a statement.

The attorney general said HSBC and several bank customers were also taking part in the proceedings as private claimants. Efforts to contact Falciani through his lawyer in France were unsuccessful.

In an interview with French newspaper La Croix published Tuesday, Falciani hinted at the justice probe.

"The struggle against corruption has caused me a lot of trouble. I have also won the satisfaction of accomplishing, along with others, my duty as a citizen."

His former employer, HSBC, declined to comment.

Whistleblowers in Switzerland, where breaking secrecy law is punishable by jail, have typically been pursued by Swiss prosecutors.

HSBC has previously disputed various aspects of Falciani's story, including his contention that he is a whistleblower -- the bank contends he tried to sell the data he absconded with and only cooperated with prosecutors when he was arrested in Spain to face extradition charges.

HSBC has also denied any role in helping clients avoid taxes.

The list of HSBC clients supplied by Falciani has prompted investigations across the globe. Last month, Argentina charged HSBC with helping more than 4,000 clients evade taxes via secret Swiss bank accounts and a Belgian judge charged HSBC's Swiss private bank with tax fraud and money laundering.

French prosecutors are also probing whether HSBC offered illicit products to help French clients avoid tax.

Monaco-born Falciani, who has French and Italian citizenship, collected data on HSBC account holders when he worked in its information technology department from 2006 to 2008.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Dec 13, 2014
Words:449
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