Using whistleblower tips is sometimes the only practical way to uncover assets hidden by determined criminals and others. The reward programs offered by the IRS and SEC recognize this. As I note at the end of this October 3rd Reuters article, whistleblowers may sometimes hit a home run and collect a plentiful bounty. There are, however, those who encounter enormous dangers because they blow the whistle.
LGT Group whistleblower Heinrich Kieber, for example, is in a witness protection program courtesy of German authorities. Time.com’s August 2011 article, reports that “some say he has a $10,000 million bounty of his head.” Then there is the pending matter of former HSBC employee Herve Falciani. An August 31st Businessweek article indicates that the suspected theft of HSBC bank account records by Mr. Falciani, is one reason profits may have declined at HSBC’s Swiss Private Bank.
The article quotes HSBC’s chief executive as saying “[t]he Swiss unit has suffered ‘reputational and financial damage’ since Herve Falciani, a former software technician in Geneva, stole details on 24,000 accounts.” The July 8, 2010 Wall Street Journal article “Mass Leak of Client Data Rattles Swiss Banking” meanwhile, suggests that Mr. Falciani considered himself to be a whistleblower. According to the article, Mr. Falciani claimed he ‘acted liked a citizen’ and that he acquired the HSBC records “to expose secrecy in banking practices.”
These HSBC records ended up in the hands of tax authorities across the globe who are trying to detect any tax cheats with assets hidden in the HSBC Swiss accounts. Mr. Falciani was reportedly arrested in Barcelona, Spain in July, at the request of Swiss authorities. Reuters reported that Mr. Falciani faced extradition to Switzerland on charges that he violated Swiss bank secrecy law, because of his alleged theft of the HSBC records. It additionally reported that a banker is thought to have recently been arrested for the separate suspected theft of Julius Baer Swiss bank account records. The banker may have sold these confidential records to tax investigators from the German state of North-Rhine Westphalia.
Copyright 2012 Fred L. Abrams