India has offered money in exchange for more information on Indian account-holders in HSBC’s Swiss private arm to Herve Falciani, the former bank staffer-turned-whistleblower who had handed over more than 100GB of data on its clients to French officials in 2008.
Sources told The Indian Express that the “formal offer” was sent to Falciani around six weeks ago after a meeting two months ago in France between him and Finance Ministry officials during which clear indications emerged that he possessed more information on the Indian account-holders.
The ministry’s Department of Revenue offered Falciani the “standard 10% of tax collected due to the revelations or evidence” with a rider that the two sides can negotiate the deal further, the sources said.
Before sending the offer, sources said, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) sought the approval of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley who gave the green signal after obtaining legal advice. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also aware of the offer, they added.
CBDT officials said that Falciani responded by informing them that he was seeking advice from his legal counsel on the offer and would shortly revert to finalise the terms of the deal.
On Monday, The Indian Express reported that 1,195 Indians were clients of HSBC’s private Swiss arm. This was roughly double the 628 names that French authorities gave to the government in 2011, which later led to the formation of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) on the orders of the Supreme Court.
Monday’s report was sourced from documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and based on data originally smuggled away by Falciani. The ICIJ, in turn, had received the data from the French newspaper Le Monde which obtained the files from the French tax authority’s investigation into HSBC’s activities.
While Falciani has transformed over the years from being a computer expert in HSBC’s Swiss private banking arm to a self-styled spokesman for whistleblowers, Switzerland has accused the “Franco-Italian national” of stealing data from his employer, and trying to sell it to banks in Lebanon.
On December 11, 2014, the Swiss attorney general charged him with data theft from HSBC on December 11, 2014, accusing him of compiling “data and information on the Bank’s clients that was both personal and financial in nature, thus creating complete client profiles with the intent… of cashing in on this data.”
Who is Herve Falciani?