HSBC fails to block French database

The French Conseil d’Etat rejected, on 24 August 2011, a plea by a Swiss unit of HSBC bank that a French government database of citizens holding bank accounts abroad should be blocked as an excess of power.

In the decision, the Court said that the budget ministry did have the authority to create a database of possible tax evaders, known as Evafisc, in 2009 to assist it in tacking fraud and tax evasion. Evafisc comprises names supplied by government agencies and banks, which under certain conditions are required to share information with authorities on clients holding accounts abroad.

Soon after its creation, Evafisc received customer data seized by French police acting on a Swiss warrant from the French home of Herve Falciani, a former IT specialist at HSBC bank in Geneva. Decryption of these files allowed for the identification of 127,000 accounts belonging to 79,000 people, officials said at the time.

The French budget ministry said the decision “justified the means used by the state to fight tax fraud”.

“For the time being, we have no comment to make. We want to take the time to analyse the court’s decision,” a spokesman for HSBC told Agence France-Presse

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