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Swiss Seek Extradition of Ex-HSBC Employee Who Stole Client Data

Switzerland asked Spain to extradite a former software technician at HSBC Holdings Plc’s Swiss private bank who stole client data that has been used to prosecute tax evaders.

Switzerland submitted an extradition request to the Spanish authorities on July 5 after Herve Falciani was arrested four days earlier in Barcelona, the Bern-based Federal Department of Justice and Police said today in an e-mailed statement.

“The Office of the Attorney General opened a criminal probe into the former information technology worker of HSBC’s private bank regarding the theft of HSBC bank details,” according to the statement. “The inquiry began after Herve Falciani went abroad.”

Falciani stole details on at least 24,000 accounts from the bank in Geneva and gave them to a French prosecutor. HSBC became aware of the theft in the middle of 2008. The French government used the data to search for tax dodgers and shared the information with countries, including the U.K., Italy and Spain.

In May, a Spanish court ended a tax-fraud investigation into undeclared Swiss funds belonging to members of the Botin family, who helped run Banco Santander SA for a century, after they paid the money they owed. The National Court said 13 months ago it would investigate the Botins after details of hidden funds at HSBC’s Swiss private bank were passed to Spanish tax authorities by France.

The U.K. tax authority, known as HMRC, said in October it was acting on information on about 6,000 individuals, companies, trusts and other bodies with accounts at HSBC’s private bank in Geneva after the French government passed on the information.

HSBC has said it had no more than 1,500 clients in any one country at the time of the theft.

Article 47 of Switzerland’s Law on Banks and Savings Banks prohibits employees from distributing confidential client account information, with a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a 250,000 Swiss franc ($252,000) fine.

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