The Federal Court of Switzerland in Lausanne on Thursday allowed the country’s tax authorities to cooperate with India in a tax evasion case that surfaced after data from a bank was stolen, Reuters reported.
The court rejected the appeal of two Indians who wanted to block the investigation in the first place. They had claimed that Indian authorities’ request seeking information from Switzerland was based on data stolen by HSBC whistleblower Herve Falciani in 2008.
Falciani, a former employee of the bank, fled Geneva in 2008 with files that showed evidence of tax evasion by clients. Falciani leaked documents showing that HSBC’s Swiss arm assisted its clients to evade taxes worth up to $205.4 billion (approximately Rs 14.1 lakh crore). The information led to investigations in several countries, besides criticism of Swiss banking policies.
In 2015, Swiss courts sentenced him to five years in jail for industrial espionage, data theft and violating Switzerland’s banking secrecy laws. Though Falciani’s findings were lauded by some, Swiss authorities claimed he revealed inside information on the bank’s workings for his own benefit, and alleged that he stole the data for money.
The French-Italian national has evaded prison by staying out of Switzerland. He has denied claims that he had sought personal gain from exposing the fraud.
The Lausanne court on Thursday ruled that India should be allowed to get the assistance that it has asked for since India did not get the data directly from Falciani. His list of bank account holders reached the French government, which had shared with India information relating to Indian clients of the bank.
The court ruled that as long as the countries did not buy the stolen data, they should be helped.
The Swiss Supreme Court had, however, in 2017, rejected the French government’s request for help in investigating some tax offences and had ruled that stolen data was inadmissible.
While ruling in the Indian case on Thursday, the court said India had made no explicit statements about whether it got the data legally.