The largest leak in banking’s history also led to the longest sentence for this type of crime, though not as long as prosecutors had hoped. Hervé Falciani, a former employee of HSBC’s Swiss private bank who exposed details of about 130,000 secret accounts in 2008, was sentenced to five years in prison.
The case’s federal prosecutor, Carlo Bulletti of Switzerland, had requested six years for Falciani for aggravated industrial espionage, data theft and violation of commercial and banking secrecy, the Guardian reports. Back in 2008, 43-year-old Falciani, a French and Italian citizen, had left the bank’s headquarters in Geneva with the files that were later leaked to the media. He had worked in information technology for the bank since 2004.
"HSBC welcomes the decision of the Swiss Federal Criminal Court to sentence former IT employee Hervé Falciani to five years in prison for aggravated industrial espionage," the bank said, according to the Telegraph. “The court heard that he was not motivated by whistleblowing intentions and that this was not a victimless crime."
Some had praised Falciani’s deed and intentions. His acts exposed that HSBC’s Swiss bank had successfully hid more than 127 billion euros ($134 billion), from about 120,000 clients, from tax authorities. He worked for a nonprofit that focused on making it safer for whistleblowers -- like himself -- to speak, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) reported.
“I’ll be convicted, but I’ll turn the page … I’m going to apply for a name change, disappear, to have a normal family life,” Falciani told ICIJ in December 2014.
Falciani’s lawyers had requested for a shortened sentence of two or three years. However, the bank painted Falciani’s deed as him being motivated by money. “Greedy -- he was and continues to be,” HSBC’s lawyer Laurent Moreillon said in court, according to The Guardian.
Falciani did not appear in Switzerland for the trial and is currently based in France, where he holds citizenship, Reuters reported. The convicted criminal may never serve his sentence in prison in Switzerland, however. Currently, there are no legal proceedings against him in France, Reuters notes.