Spain court to rule on extradition of Swiss whistleblower ‘within 15 days’

A Spanish court is due to decide within two weeks whether or not to extradite Herve Falciani, a former HSBC analyst who leaked documents alleging widespread tax evasion, to Switzerland, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Spain court to rule on extradition of Swiss whistleblower 'within 15 days'
Falciani outside Spain's congress in Madrid. Photo: AFP

Arrested in Madrid in April on his way to a conference on the need to protect whistleblowers and released on bail, Falciani has already been convicted of industrial espionage in Switzerland in absentia for the scandal  that became known as “Swiss Leaks.”   

A Swiss court handed him a five-year jail sentence in 2015 but the 46-year-old has avoided Switzerland since.   

Falciani took the stand at Madrid's National Court on Tuesday in a brief hearing after which his lawyer Juan Barallat said a decision would be taken “within around 15 days.”

The Franco-Italian national worked for the Swiss branch of HSBC and became known as the “the man who terrifies the rich” after leaking information in 2008 that alleged HSBC's Swiss private banking arm helped 79,000 clients evade billions of euros in taxes.

READ MORE. HSBC 'whistleblower' Falciani arrested in Spain on Swiss warrant

“Whistleblowers must be defended, because their information stops such cases from remaining without consequences,” he told reporters after the hearing.

Falciani became an IT worker for HSBC in 2000 and moved to the bank's offices in Geneva in 2006.

There, he obtained access to encrypted customer information.   

In 2008, he went to Lebanon with the information planning to sell the data, without success. Swiss authorities described it as “cashing in”.   

He then came back to Switzerland where he was under investigation and ended up leaving for France, where he passed on the pilfered information to tax authorities.

This led to the prosecution of tax evaders including Arlette Ricci, heir to France's Nina Ricci perfume empire, and the pursuit of Emilio Botin, the late chairman of the Spanish bank Santander.

Since then, he has become known as the “Snowden of tax evasion,” in reference to former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who in 2013 revealed the scope of the US government's electronic surveillance programme.   

Falciani had already been arrested in Barcelona in July 2012 on an international warrant issued by Switzerland.   

He then spent several months in a Spanish prison.   

But in 2013, the National Court ended up refusing his extradition on the grounds that the charges he faced in Switzerland are not considered crimes under Spanish law.

READ ALSO: “I don’t believe in Swiss justice”: HSBC whistleblower Falciani


Shakira to be questioned over alleged tax fraud in Spain

Colombian superstar Shakira will be questioned by a court near Barcelona on June 12th for allegedly evading €14.5 million ($16.5 million) in taxes.

Shakira to be questioned over alleged tax fraud in Spain
Photo: AFP

In a statement released Tuesday, the high court of Catalonia, where the singer lives with her partner, FC Barcelona footballer Gerard Pique, said she had been summoned to appear before a judge in Esplugues de Llobregat.

The 42-year-old is suspected of not paying taxes in Spain despite being a resident between 2011 and 2014, according to prosecutors.   

The case only covers the period from 2012 to 2014, however, as the timeframe to prosecute alleged tax offences in 2011 has expired.   

In a relationship since 2011 Pique, with whom she has two sons, Shakira transferred her official residency to Spain in 2015.   

Until then, it was in the Bahamas.   

But a spokesman for prosecutors in Barcelona told AFP last year that this didn't “match reality” with her children and partner in Barcelona.   

Shakira's representatives insist that until 2014 she earned most of her money in international tours and didn't live more than six months a year in Spain — a prerequisite to be an official tax-paying resident in the country.

With her mix of Latin and Arabic rhythms and rock influences, Shakira is one of the biggest stars from Latin America, scoring major global hits with songs such as “Hips Don't Lie” and “Whenever, Wherever.”

READ MORE: Shakira pays €20 million to settle Spanish tax debt