How the “HSBC Disk” was stolen

19 July 2010

The Wall Street Journal has published a detailed account of how a small group of HSBC Geneva employees stole private details of the bank’s individual and corporate clients and sold it to the French government.

Apparently the information was offered in anonymous e-mails sent two years ago to the German, French and British authorities, under the subject line “Tax evasion: client list available”. It referred to nearly 79,000 private clients and 20,000 firms (these numbers are disputed by HSBC).

The principal conspirator has already been widely named as Hervé Falciani, a Monegasque computer security expert who is now under French police protection. But the WSJ – whose source is said to be a French prosecutor in Nice – names another HSBC ex-employee, Georgina Mikhael, as also involved.

The two allegedly set up a shell company to market the data. They are said to have hosted a sales presentation in Lebanon to five leading French and Levantine banks before sending the anonymous e-mails.

But Falciani is claiming not to have taken money for the information. He claims the French police seized the disk containing the data because they were requested to do so by the Swiss authorities, who had already arrested Mikhael. Both deny any offences.

According to the WSJ, the sheer size of the HSBC leak is “acutely alarming to Switzerland’s $2 trillion offshore banking industry.”


Wall Street Journal



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