1706178029 Herve Falciani You can be very rich and still be

Hervé Falciani: “You can be very rich and still be a hillbilly”

Eleven years ago, the elegant man who met with EL PAÍS to talk about corruption and who had just played himself in the film “El Correo” by Daniel Calparsoro was imprisoned in Valdemoro prison. His name is Hervé Falciani, he is now 52, ​​and he has fond memories of the prison where he sat for five and a half months while the Spanish justice system decided on the – ultimately rejected – request for extradition to Switzerland. which accused him of economic espionage and convicted him in absentia. When he left prison, the Spanish authorities gave him an escort. The systems engineer of French and Italian nationality, a former employee of the HSBC bank in Geneva, had in 2008 seized the data of 130,000 tax evaders from around the world, including Spain, which recovered more than 250 million euros with his help. for the public coffers. The so-called Falciani list is still alive. The seemingly simplest questions, such as where you live or what you are doing today, seem the most difficult to answer: “In several countries, but when my life returns to normal, I would like to return to Spain.” Now I don't even have a cell phone with me me”; “I work with foundations such as Baltasar Garzón, with the Valencian agency Anfifraude, in the development of an application to control the execution of public works, with officials…”

Questions. His escape to Spain in 2012 was also like something out of a movie. He claims the United States warned him that his life was in danger.

Answer. Yes, it had to pass through international waters and activate the command [busca y captura] from Interpol to extradite me with certain guarantees of the rule of law. Fortunately, the secret services of various countries have always supported me.

Q Did you feel like your life was in danger at the time? Do you have it today?

R. Well, we touch the noses of financial powers, villains, drug traffickers, arms dealers, diamond dealers, terrorists and high-ranking public figures. All of this happens through offshore financing channels. Am I engaging in risky activities? Clear. But I've never been afraid and never will be. For me, risk is not an emotion, but information, and I treat it as such.

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Q Their list contained more than 130,000 names of scammers from 200 countries. The documentary “The Falciani List” tells how many of them were not convicted, others paid a fine… Were you frustrated with the result?

R. The list is another expression of the work that many men and women continue to do. It was a list of names, but also of mechanisms and methods. There are banks that are being investigated today. The interesting thing about it was to scare those who thought they were untouchable and to convey that information allows us to fight against impunity and balance the forces. What I like about this film that I took part in, “The Courier,” is that it shows in an entertaining way the power of Generation Z, that it is more attractive to be an infiltrated courier, an informant, than a courier. [persona que traslada dinero] dry. The information war that can topple the most powerful and give citizens back what was theirs requires many people, but also the imagination to think about what the other side is preparing.

“I have friends who transferred money or bought an island”

Q Who learns faster: fraudsters or their pursuers?

R. There are many more honest citizens than those who are not. I'm optimistic. It is now easier to infiltrate people or mechanisms to uncover corruption. The same technology is used as with bleaching agents. It's not just briefcase messengers who travel in cars. Money highways are also computerized and cryptocurrencies are sometimes used for illegal transactions, money laundering or tax evasion. I have worked with various administrations on this matter. In Spain, every person I know who wanted to buy a house was offered to pay part of it. I think that the new generations have a different consciousness and that it is easier to change someone who has experienced corruption than someone who grew up in patriarchy, which will probably take longer despite efforts for equality. And there are simple solutions that would put an end to black money, such as promoting the digital euro with incentives, just as in some countries car insurers reduce your premium if you accept a black box in your vehicle. There are officials who have very good ideas, but they do not succeed because politicians sometimes consider them unsaleable or have no interest in them.

Q Your father was a banker, you grew up in a tax haven, Monaco, and your first job was in the casino in Monte Carlo. What have you learned about people through money?

R. That you can be very rich and still be a protagonist with no imagination. If your only goal in life is to make more money, you lack creativity. I also learned that education and culture have a big impact and can curb this type of behavior. In Monte Carlo I had friends who became couriers, others who bought an island… and there is always a moment when you ask yourself which side you want to be on. You have to choose. I love and admire a former Spanish police infiltrator. He told me that he wanted to be a bullfighter, but luckily he decided to be something much more useful to society and not bother the poor animals (laughs).

In prison, I saw ETA members spending 400 euros a month on marijuana to survive.”

Q And who had more problems: the friends who sent money emails or you for reporting the scam?

R. Well, fortunately that is something that can be changed.

Q How do you remember those five and a half months in prison? I think it coincided with a bank robber.

R. In prison I met terrorists, drug traffickers, hitmen, pedophiles and even good people. From a psychological perspective, it was a very interesting, formative time. There were many worlds within this separate world that is the prison. The first week I was in charge of the library and tried to get to know the prisoners through the books they requested. I remember that some were very concerned with black magic issues. Also that there were ETA members who spent 400 euros a month on marijuana to survive… We talked a lot.

Hervé Falciani, last Tuesday, during the interview. Hervé Falciani, last Tuesday, during the interview. Jaime Villanueva

Q Switzerland accused him of wanting to sell the data and sentenced him to five years in prison, which he did not serve. What did you plan to do when you traveled to Lebanon in 2008 and founded the company Palorma?

R. They could only convict me of economic espionage, and that's what I claim, but not of trying to sell the data, because they didn't even prove it. I traveled to Lebanon to make false statements because my goal was to uncover a warning in Switzerland. The alert was triggered, I went to France and there they were able to investigate me so that the true information could be prosecuted. This data has been used by the French judiciary and many other countries. Everything was prepared for it to be like this.

Q When you started working at HSBC, did you have any idea what was going on there?

R. Clear! Why did customers from other countries come to Switzerland? They looked for what they didn't have: secrecy, a lack of control. For example, why did Russian oligarchs go to Cyprus? To launder your money. Tax and legal havens are not over yet. There is still a lot to be done, particularly with regard to the financial lack of transparency of stock corporations. This is where the focus is right now and we need more resources.

Q And when and how did you make the decision to intervene: storing all this data?

R. I couldn't have done what I did on my own. At the bank I was responsible for strategic projects; I didn't have direct access to the data. The Falciani list was a collective plan: I spoke to technicians, many were not Swiss, they had a different conscience… And what happened next was also planned. I alone wouldn't have thought of coming to Spain.

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