France to return 'stolen' HSBC data to Switzerland
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France has agreed to a Swiss request to return banking information believed to have been "stolen" from an HSBC branch in Geneva. The data was allegedly handed over by a former HSBC employee to French authorities probing suspected tax evaders.
AFP - France said Monday it would agree to a Swiss request to hand back data taken from a HSBC bank branch in Geneva that is at the centre of a row between the two countries.
HSBC Private Bank says the information was stolen by a former employee who later gave it to French authorities probing suspected tax evasion by several thousand French taxpayers.
The Swiss authorities had called on France to hand it back after it was seized in January by police in southern France under a Swiss warrant for the former employee, a French citizen identified as Herve Falciani.
French prosecutor François Faletti said Monday in the southern town of Aix-en-Provence that France had earlier this year already partially met the Swiss request and that now it would hand over the rest of the data.
The spat over the data led the Swiss government last Wednesday to suspend ratification of a new dual taxation agreement with France.
Swiss Finance Minister Hans Rudolf Merz said that the decision followed moves by French authorities to exploit stolen secret client data handed over by Falciani, who was a computer expert at the bank.
The former HSBC employee is wanted by Swiss authorities after the bank filed a complaint over stolen data.
Newspaper reports in France said Falciani and another former HSBC staffer had tried to sell the data in Lebanon.
France and Switzerland signed the new dual taxation treaty in August in a bid to increase exchanges of information in cases of tax fraud, marking a softening of Switzerland's closely-guarded banking secrecy.
It is one of a string of deals being struck by the Swiss to fall in line with international standards against tax evasion, following months of pressure and a clampdown by the United States and leading European economies.
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