February 14th, 2015 (updated February 20th, 2015)
Hervé Falciani is the man behind the largest leak in banking history. In this interview, filmed in February 2014), he told the British filmmaker Nick Francis why he had little choice but to become a whistleblower after he discovered that the board of directors of his employer, HSBC, was allegedly complicit in the facilitation of money-laundering and tax evasion for dodgy customers.
Falciani says that what tipped him over the edge was that the HSBC board, chaired by Sir John Bond from 1998-2006 and Lord Stephen Green in 2006-10, was not prepared to lift a finger to stop the bank from being used as a vessel to hide $500bn of assets which “were not supposed to be there” (i.e. dirty money, including the proceeds of crime, the drugs trade, cash from blood diamonds trafficking, and funds that customers were seeking to squirrel away from the tax man).
Since 2009, Falciani has been collaborating with numerous European nations by providing information relating to up to 130,000 suspected tax evaders with Swiss bank accounts – specifically those with accounts in HSBC’s Swiss private banking subsidiary, HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) S.A..
On 11 December 2014, Falciani, who worked for ten years as a computer analyst at HSBC in Monaco and Switzerland, was indicted by the Swiss federal government for violating the country’s bank secrecy laws and for industrial espionage, the only person so far to have been indicted for the allegedly criminal activities of HSBC Private Bank (though a few its customers have already been prosecuted in various countries).
In the interview Hervé Falciani, 43, says:
“When I moved to the headquarters it was perfectly clear they [HSBC] were moving in a direction where we had less and less controls and that they didn’t want to change their ways.
“Inside the bank, all this money was coming from the mafia, from narco-trafficking, from criminal activities like blood diamonds, and tax evasion of course, and all this was there without control. In addition, once known, and I’m talking about government, no-one was motivated to do anything, even when it was possible.
“We had over $500 billion in assets that were not supposed to be there, and it was clearly established that the problem was from the direction from the board of directors [of HSBC]. So they are not just receiving all this money, but also participating in the effort to hide it. And this is the most shocking thing.”
This video is courtesy of the Guardian which, together with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the BBC, Le Monde and 50 other media outlets worldwide, has been doing a fantastic and courageous job in exposing how HSBC actively promoted tax evasion and fraud.
Update: February 20th, 2015.
Falciani has indicated that many other banks are involved in similar practises. In an interview with Italian newspaper La Stampa, he said that what he has revealed about HSBC was just the tip of the iceberg.
“If you dig down a little bit in how offshore banks and intermediate banking work, you would understand that these things cannot involve just one single bank. Everything must be analysed and understood in the next few months.”
He added that he is sceptical about measures the 28-nation European Union is putting in place to combat tax evasion:
“Control institutions are not independent enough. We should let other institutions, like NGOs and associations of consumers, take part in the control process.”
In the interview, which was published in Italian, Falciani denied allegations that he tried to sell the HSBC files before leaking them to the French fiscal authorities.