Hervé Falciani is a French-Italian whistle-blower who handed over information on over 100,000 HSBC account to French authorities now known as the HSBC leaks. He is a former employee of HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) and dubbed as the “French Snowden” by many. Falciani has since 2008, as The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists notes, “been causing havoc for wealthy people the world over who use offshore accounts to hide money from taxation…”
In this open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he speaks on the need for tough anti-black money laws in India and what they should focus on.
Dear Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi,
I am writing to you to seek your support on behalf of those who support India in its fight against black money. Your determination to fight this problem, we believe, is strong, and we therefore request you, sir, to meet us during your Paris visit and allow us the opportunity to show you how we can be of assistance.
As a group of insiders, we have a broad range of experience as client officers, compliance officers, head analysts and expert dealers. On the eve of your departure to Europe, we urge you to consider that the exchange at the government level between ministries of finance and tax authorities remains limited in nature, and urgently needs to be expanded to include departments of justice in order to accelerate the black-money probe. In addition, we urgently need channels to open up to allow room for the flow of complementary expertise, such as that from insiders or whistle-blowers.
We welcome the news that India is considering a new set of anti-black-money laws. In this regard, with all due respect, we are taking the liberty to spell out what we believe should be the guiding principles not only for India, but also for countries around the world, including those we ourselves are citizens of:
- Increase transparency to fight opacity; create room for the active participation of independent bodies and civil society in audits; build active collaboration and information-sharing between governments to allow investigators to share information across borders; enable investigators to adapt to constantly evolving tricks deployed by wrongdoers.
- Target mechanisms, and hold banks accountable rather than focus solely on individuals; envisage the state presenting itself as plaintiff in proceedings against banks charged with money laundering and tax fraud (as in Belgium vs HSBC); steer investigators to work with clients from different banks and different countries who have admitted to keeping accounts abroad, to have them work as witnesses in order to widen the probe to multiple banks;
- Focus on big corporations that exploit these mechanisms to stash their wealth abroad. Corporate tax is essential for a nation’s development. If the wealthy do not pay for the infrastructure and services that they benefit from, it leads to inequality and unfair burdens on poorer citizens.
- Strengthen whistle-blower protection laws for not just public servants but also insiders in public/private sectors. Financial compensation for those who reveal wrongdoing should not be seen as rewarding mercenaries but as essential support for the survival of individuals who find themselves unemployable, isolated, harassed, and even face death. This money doesn’t come from taxpayers or governments but from recoveries made from the crackdown against large-scale fraud.
Isaac Newton once said, “We build too many walls and not enough bridges.” But we wish to build bridges with India, and will therefore also be joining hands with more Indian citizens who support our views.
We earnestly hope that you will be willing to lend us your support and give us an opportunity to meet you.
(The letter was first published in The Caravan.)