HSBC Data Thief Plugs Crypto Coin Amid Extradition Fight

(Bloomberg) -- Herve Falciani, known as a convicted thief to the Swiss and a whistleblower to others, is getting into the cryptocurrency game as he awaits a Spanish judge’s decision on whether to extradite him to Switzerland.

Falciani, who once taunted prosecutors by speaking at an event in France less than a mile from the Swiss border, is promoting a cryptocurrency called Taboow with the help of Spanish partners.

The project has attracted at least one investor, a commitment of a few million euros and is in discussions to raise more, a spokesman for Taboow.org said by telephone. The cryptocurrency will be spelled Tabu, according to the website, which is currently conducting a live sale of the tokens.

The 46-year-old, who wrote a 2015 book called “Earthquake on Planet Finance,” says he wants to democratize finance and information with his new project.

“Cryptocurrencies open finance to allow it to expand and not just remain in the hands of the few,” he said in a press release.

Falciani’s entry into the increasingly crowded crypto field comes as Bitcoin, the biggest cryptocurrency, has lost more than half its value this year. A regulatory crackdown from the U.S. to China has raised fears that the early days of surging growth in digital currency valuations has come and gone.

Guilty in Absentia

Falciani was found guilty in absentia of corporate espionage by a Swiss court in 2015 after stealing a trove of data from HSBC’s Swiss unit that he tried to sell before he gave the information to French authorities. That spawned investigations by French, Belgian, U.S. and U.K. authorities into tax evasion, and made him made him a hero to some.

Not the Swiss. Their request for Falciani’s extradition was rejected by a Spanish court in 2013. Armed with the 2015 conviction -- and a five-year sentence -- the Swiss tried again this year. Falciani was briefly detained by Spanish police in April before being released without bail on condition he surrender his passport and report regularly to police.

Falciani attended an extradition hearing at Madrid’s National Court on Tuesday and a decision on it is due in coming weeks, a court spokesman said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.