Threat Management, Incident Response, TDR

Swiss bank accounts under CRA investigation

The Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) is investigating more than 1,000 high-value bank accounts in Switzerland, after a former employee stole the account data and handed it to investigators.

Hervé Falciani, a security specialist employed by HSBC, copied information on thousands of accounts from the HSBC and handed them over to French investigators in 2007. The French government has since made information on the accounts held by Canadians available to the Canadian authorities.

Private Swiss bank accounts are sometimes used for tax-evasion purposes. The CRA says that it recovered around $1 billion in unpaid taxes stashed in offshore accounts last year. The accounts, stolen in 2007, will come under close scrutiny.

“The largest accounts are now being audited, and others will follow. All accounts that are linked to Canadian taxpayers will be reviewed,” said the CRA in a statement.

The number of accounts stolen has come into question. HSBC has said that 15,000 existing client accounts were compromised along with another 9,000 accounts that had been closed. But the public prosecutor in Nice, Eric de Montgolfier, has said that 80,000 accounts were recovered. The accounts were all set up before October 2006.

Falciani has styled himself as a whistleblower, uncovering financial crime. “If you discover that the layers of trusts and offshore accounts allow people to avoid paying tax or VAT and you understand that is what they are there for, what they are meant for, what do you do?” he asked on French television last year. “Either you bury your head in the sand or you try to do something about it.”

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