Like Edward Snowden, Herve Falciani is on the run from the authorities having divulged large amounts of stolen information to the public.
Falciani walked out of a Swiss-based HSBC Holdings Plc (ADR) (NYSE:HBC) in 2008 with five CDs full of financial information on thousands of Europe’s biggest tax dodgers, known as the Legarde List, named after the former French finance minister after she passed the details on to the Greek government to help them track down tax evaders. The list has since been passed on to numerous European countries.
The 41-year-old Falciani had worked at HSBC for three years and he unleashed the information on Europe’s private-banking sector leading to raids and investigations all over the continent.
While Switzerland pursued his extradition from a number of countries for data theft, the rest of Europe heralded him as a Robin Hood-styled whistle-blower as they used the information to recoup billions in lost taxes. It’s even rumored that he helped American regulators in their money-laundering case against HSBC, which led to a $1.9 billion settlement. HSBC denies this.
Unlike Snowden who stole his information from the U.S. government and narrowed the number of countries where he might find refuge, Falciani has been welcomed with open arms by several European countries, Those countries have all rejected Switzerland’s extradition efforts .
After going on the run Falciani arrived in Spain where he was arrested but quickly freed after a judge rejected Swiss deportation requests. Now he lives in France where in exchange for government protection he will help French authorities hunt for tax-dodgers.
So precious is Falciani’s information that even the Mossad, Israel's intelligence service, has shown interest with Falciani claiming that they kidnapped him in order to discover if the lists contained any Hezbollah combatants's names.
Falciani fears for his security and has three full-time armed-guards that the French government provide as he helps the tax authority there develop strategies to stop tax-evasion.
In the beginning few were interested in Falciani’s discs but the fiscal crisis changed many governments' minds, particularly the Greek, French and Spanish governments who, uisng his information, have identified thousands of tax cheats and have already recouped more than $610 million in back taxes.