HSBC man wanted for stealing data ‘had US help’

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A FRENCH-ITALIAN man wanted by Switzerland on suspicion of stealing confidential banking information now being used by international financial investigators says American officials warned him he was in danger and advised him to go to Spain.

Herve Falciani, a former employee of global banking group HSBC, was arrested in July after he left France by sea and tried to enter Spain through Barcelona.

In December, Spain’s National Court released him after authorities argued Falciani was co-operating with investigators from several European countries in inquiries into tax evasion, money-laundering and terrorism financing.

He is now fighting extradition to Switzerland, where he is accused of stealing information between 2006 and 2007 related to at least 24,000 customers with private accounts with the Swiss division of HSBC.

In a lengthy interview published in El Pais newspaper yesterday, the 40-year-old is quoted as saying he was co-operating with US Justice Department officials when he was told to head for Spain.

“They told me that from that moment my life was at risk,” Falciani says. “They told me the only safe place in Europe was Spain.”

He said American authorities advised him on what day to travel – 1 July. “They even knew which judge would be on duty when I arrived,” he is quoted as saying. “The United States had warned me just before [his departure to Spain] that it would easy for someone to pay to try to get me killed.”

Falciani also is accused of breaching banking secrecy, including allegedly releasing a list of names of HSBC private customers to French officials in 2008, the year he fled Switzerland for France.