Ex-HSBC Worker Falciani Released Without Bail by Spain Judge

(Bloomberg) -- Herve Falciani, a former HSBC employee whose leak of private-bank account data triggered tax-evasion probes in several countries, was released by a Spanish judge less than a day after being arrested by police in Madrid on an extradition request by Swiss authorities.

Judiciary police detained Falciani in the capital on Wednesday, and the Frenchman appeared in court on Thursday where Spanish prosecutors recommended he be detained pending a decision on extradition. The judge, however, left him free to go while requiring him to surrender his passport and report weekly to police.

“Mr. Falciani is doing well and ready to cooperate,” Manuel Olle, his lawyer, told reporters in Madrid after the judge’s decision was announced. “We are, however, surprised by the arrest and hope that the case sticks to the facts.”

Falciani was found guilty in absentia of corporate espionage by a Swiss court in 2015 and given a five-year prison sentence, after stealing a trove of data from HSBC’s Swiss unit that spawned investigations by French, Belgian, U.S. and U.K. authorities into tax evasion. HSBC agreed to a penalty of 40 million Swiss francs ($42 million) to end a probe by the Geneva prosecutor’s office into allegations of money laundering and avoid criminal charges.

Falciani had avoided the prison term until now by staying out of Switzerland. The Spanish judge’s decision makes it less likely he will ever be sent back to Switzerland to serve the prison sentence. A Spanish court rejected his extradition in 2013 when he entered Spain in 2012 on the basis that the crimes he was being accused of weren’t subject to prosecution in Spain.

His arrest on Wednesday in Madrid comes as Spain’s judiciary is seeking two pro-independence leaders who fled the nation for Switzerland earlier this year. Swiss authorities declined to comment on whether there was any there is any connection between the cases and Falciani.

To contact the author of this story: James Tarmy in New York at jtarmy@bloomberg.net.

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