* Herve Falciani wanted in Switzerland over leak
* Parliamentarians praise Falciani as whistleblower
* Say he revealed tax evasion on 'industrial' scale
By Lionel Laurent
PARIS, July 2 A former HSBC employee
wanted in Switzerland for leaking the details of tens of
thousands of bank accounts gave evidence on Tuesday to French
lawmakers trying to tighten rules against tax evasion.
Herve Falciani spent four hours describing ways he said the
bank helped its clients sidestep taxes using various loopholes
and exemptions under national laws, according to two Socialist
deputies who met with him in closed session.
"Mr Falciani told us some extremely interesting things,"
said one of the deputies, Yann Galut. "He indicated to us ...
various examples of dysfunction that we will now examine."
Galut and fellow National Assembly deputy Christian Eckert
said they would use Falciani's information to help draft a new
law to fight tax evasion.
"He said there were entire (bank) departments ... dedicated
to staying one step ahead of the law and that we were not
well-equipped enough," said Galut, praising Falciani as a
whistleblower who revealed tax evasion on an "industrial" scale.
An HSBC spokesman said the bank could not comment on the
hearing itself, as it had not been officially informed.
"In general, Mr. Falciani has made many statements but the
only proven fact remains that he stole confidential data from
the bank in 2008, a criminal offence under Swiss law," the
spokesman said. "HSBC complies with the law in all the
territories in which it operates."
Governments are cracking down on tax avoidance in the wake
of the financial crisis, raising the pressure on countries such
as Switzerland whose laws on client confidentiality make it
easier for foreigners to hide wealth from the tax man.
French President Francois Hollande is under particular
pressure to act after his budget minister resigned over an
undeclared Swiss bank account in March.
Falciani caused a furore in 2010 when bank client data ended
up in the hands of tax authorities in France, Italy, Spain and
other European countries that later used it to try to recover
billions of euros in lost taxes.
HSBC and Switzerland's UBS are now under
investigation in France over whether they unlawfully sold
products designed to avoid tax.
Falciani was in France after taking refuge in Spain from
Swiss authorities seeking his extradition. He avoided being sent
back to Switzerland when Spanish authorities ruled that the
charges he faced were not considered crimes under Spanish law.
Galut said Falciani was cooperating with the French
authorities and France's judiciary would go "right to the end"
in its probe of HSBC.
Falciani, who has Italian and French citizenship, only gave
a brief statement to reporters as he left the National Assembly
"The veil is only just beginning to lift," he said, sporting
a goatee beard and patterned shirt. He said he had faced threats
since leaking the bank account data, without elaborating.
(Reporting by Lionel Laurent; editing by Christian Plumb and