Huge Leak Exposes Bank's Tax-Dodging Secrets

Whistleblower made off with 100K Swiss files
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 9, 2015 2:20 AM CST
Huge Leak Exposes Bank's Tax-Dodging Secrets
A pedestrian passes a branch of HSBC in London.    (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)

Herve Falciani may not be a household name, but he has done to banking giant HSBC what Edward Snowden did to the NSA. A huge cache of files the IT expert obtained in 2007 has revealed how HSBC's Swiss arm not only held secret accounts for some of the world's shadiest characters, it actively helped wealthy clients dodge taxes in their home countries, reports the Guardian. Reporters in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists who've analyzed the files say HSBC "profited from doing business with arms dealers who channeled mortar bombs to child soldiers in Africa, bagmen for third-world dictators, traffickers in blood diamonds, and other international outlaws," AFP reports.

The documents Falciani made off with in 2007 held the details of more than 100,000 clients from around the world. Although they were only obtained in full by the media yesterday, they have already led to prosecutions in such countries as the US and France, the BBC reports. "We acknowledge and are accountable for past compliance and control failures," HSBC said in a statement, stressing that it has "completely overhauled" its banking business in the years since the leak. Authorities in Switzerland, meanwhile, are still pursuing Falciani, who fled the country for France when he turned whistleblower, the ICIJ reports. He has been charged with violating the country's bank secrecy laws, but the French, who used his files to identify tax evaders, have refused to extradite him. (More HSBC stories.)

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