He is the whistle-blower who, six years ago, leaked data related to thousands of accounts at HSBC Geneva. The HSBC list made from this data had over 600 Indian names. Herve Falciani, a former HSBC employee, speaks to NDTV's Noopur Tiwari about how he can help India.
Here's the full transcript:
NDTV: You are the man behind the most spectacular leak in banking secrecy, the HSBC list, as it's now called, has caused tremors not just in France but also in Belgium, Spain, also in Greece and all the way to India. There have been efforts to discredit this information but also your person. People have been saying that it's stolen data
Herve Falciani: Of course, it's about fighting impunity, about fighting deregulated finance globally. It's huge. It's different from what we expected. It's about governments lying officially as has been proven recently by Lux leaks. It is still a lot of effort and a lot of danger. On one side we have governments, and I insist that they are lying. Mr Juncker protected huge companies. Even in India you know the importance of big companies. That's why we need people like us, whistleblowers to be protected. That is the way to oppose opacity, that's the only way!
NDTV: Contrary to popular perception your data wasn't a simple list of names and account numbers it was more than that. It was a huge jumble of data, which was apparently encrypted on purpose to protect the clients. What does the data really have and is there enough on for the guilty to be nabbed or not?
Herve Falciani: Yes, you have enough to reveal much, much more than was done until now. I experienced that many times in Spain, Italy and other countries we are working on. You have a huge amount of data that the Indian administration has not yet obtained and that's why also we are working with lawyers to go further than what was done with just governments working together.
NDTV: So you're saying that the data India has right now is something we can do more with and we can have more info?
Herve Falciani: Oh yes.
NDTV: You have worked with France, Spain, Belgium, etc. Would you assist India if they were to ask you?
Herve Falciani: Of course, we are already working with teams in different countries, with investigators. I have been working with investigators for 5 years. We need to give our experience about private banking, about shadow banking to the Indian administration. We are keen to provide this expertise and we have much more data. As you know what we gave India is just the tip of the iceberg. It's just up to them. They can just contact us and they will get the whole picture and we will suggest a way to organise the support. To go through all the information, as you know, although not many people know, it's much, much more than what was obtained. It's not about a list, it's about what is needed to do an audit, to track down all the intermediaries, all the companies that have stakes.
NDTV: We have been told by the government that Indian investigators are already doing their job on this. In what way could you do more than what they're already doing?
Herve Falciani: The fact is that they don't know about private banking that's why whistle blowers can help because they know it from inside. When you are focussing on India you forget all what is happening, for example related to diamond dealers. And you know how these dealers are important for India. We know from yesterday's events that there are lot of blood diamonds related to HSBC that will interest India but India doesn't have related information and we can help them.
NDTV: What about the list itself? Can India use it as a base to get more information on the same cases or not?
Herve Falciani: What they have is enough just to understand that they have to go further. They need to move on now. You know I saw the same thing in France. It was just this last year, after five years that things moved on and things started changing because it was political decision. And if tomorrow politics changes because the citizens are not aware, of course it will be forgotten, you know. It will be put in the shadow.
NDTV: You mean that public opinion and pressure is important?
Herve Falciani: Yes. This is the only way to proceed. Offering citizens the possibility to be part of the board of directors locally, for whistleblowers from abroad to be able to collaborate with administrations because they have the expertise that you can't imagine locally coming from abroad. That's why it's not about the treaties for automatic exchange. It's the same people always deciding about treaties, but this is not transparency, this is much more fog, you know, shadow.
NDTV: So when you say India has only small part of the bigger thing, it's time to move away from that particular investigation and look at the bigger problem or are you saying that data is also going to be able to be exploited?
Herve Falciani: Yes, both. There is a lot more information. You know maybe India received less than 1% of information that is useful from HSBC, and after that they can leverage this to understand better what is happening with regards to Switzerland, Luxembourg with all tax havens. There is a thousand times more information that is available for investigators and there are a lot of business procedures to be unveiled to them, that's why we need to collaborate to move on. The example of diamond dealers is the best. You know you will not have Indian data, or very little, related to that. But you will have Belgian, French and other people who will be interesting to know about in India. To summarise, you have many more individuals to know and secondly you have all the transactions: all the companies, all the understanding of what is a private bank that is available and they just have to ask and we are there just to help them organise the fight against what, opacity, corruption. But of course, if they don't want, we can't proceed.
NDTV: But getting to know the names is the biggest issue in India right now.
Herve Falciani: Most of the time this corruption comes from abroad. They're using local people of course, but you have more people in the background that are corrupting and that are helping them because they have an interest in having such a situation, and that's why we can't focus only. And I am not saying it's not important, but we can't focus only on those persons. You just have to ask for transactions and a lot of things that are not known.
NDTV: What is happening in investigations currently here? In India we are at a very early stage of investigation on the data that came from you. By the time India got this data in 2011, the name of the bank had already been out over here, so wouldn't account holders have done whatever's necessary to ensure that they won't be discovered?
Herve Falciani: They are still there and most of the time we have the proof. You know here in France everything resumed just one year ago, in Belgium it was the same. And in Belgium it's about billions of euros that are at stake. If you want to change the scale you need to go deep into the processes.
NDTV: Also in France and elsewhere the emphasis has shifted from people to banks because banks are being indicted.
Herve Falciani: Of course, and that's why I am talking about processes. Laws are made to protect opacity and shadow banking. And am afraid to say that it's bad in Europe and in US, US less because they are protecting whistle blowers but it could change. So you have laws protecting shadow banking and it won't change if civil society and citizens are not pushing the government just to develop their investigations and their expertise in fighting shadow banking
NDTV: So rather than just wait for Switzerland to give information, find other ways...
Herve Falciani: Switzerland won't be pleased, Luxembourg won't be pleased, if I and my friends, other whistleblowers, we are a league today; and you have many people around who are participating in workshops with administrations, with states, those that want to fight.
NDTV: Now there is the Automatic Information Exchange system that will be coming soon, which the G20 nations are pushing for and there is this new idea floating around that there will be no need for people like you anymore, no need for whistle blowers and they are against using insiders to get information.
Herve Falciani: We need citizens to be aware of what is happening in big companies, in administrations, in finance. You know it's always the same people discussing the treaties, the same that are lying are organizing the next step just to make you think you can trust them. But why should you trust them? They are lying and it's being proved every day. So we just need more control, we need more transparency, we need more citizens being involved. There were the Luxembourg leaks revelations in the last weeks, there was the UBS case; there is the Julius Bar case. We are the few persons who prove that we need think differently, we need to think out of the box.
NDTV: And the small cases that keep coming up?
Herve Falciani: Those are just a symptom of what is much bigger behind. If you look at what's happening locally, dark markets (black market) you'll go after thousands of dollars or whatever, if you go after companies, after processes, you change scales. Multinational companies, how they behave, you change scale to tens of billions of dollars
NDTV: So you're saying go after the big fish?
Herve Falciani: Big fish, big fish. And for that we need to evolve our investigative teams and the way to investigate, the way to collaborate and civil society is one key element
NDTV: Would you be willing to go to India to help?
Herve Falciani: I will do everything useful. I know who will be useful. But am not alone. I am working with technicians, scientists. We are working with a lot of people. But of course to let you know I have a few more missions to help develop their teams and of course I am very keen to do this with India. If they ask tomorrow, we will have a proposal to tell them how to proceed.
NDTV: Today you are working with investigators, with governments, but not long ago you were being treated like a criminal.
Herve Falciani: It's been very hard, very tough to go through all this. You don't do that without waiting for consequences. It has been very hard and it's still very hard. I have to dedicate my life to that now. But more and more citizens are aware and that is good for us
NDTV: What were you thinking when you walked away with the data? You've been accused of wanting to peddle information. People said you wanted money and that's why you did it.
Herve Falciani: I grew up in a tax haven and I have been very upset, very angry about lies that have now been exposed publicly and much more will come. I was really angry and I wanted to let people know. They continue lying, about me also. The reality of things will be out sooner or later and this is why I am still continuing I am still confident. I know I did good and I am continuing.
NDTV: What about your family?
Herve Falciani: I have to keep it safe. That's why I am not with them.
NDTV: So you don't live with your family? They are in another location?
Herve Falciani: Yes.
NDTV: And you have a little daughter who happens to like Bollywood?
Herve Falciani: She is a great fan of Devdas.
NDTV: Thank you so very much Herve for talking to NDTV.
Herve Falciani: My pleasure. Thank you as well.