The Swiss attorney general's office, without identifying the suspect as is its custom, said in a statement Dec. 11 that the country was prepared to try him in absentia. The statement refers to Herve Falciani, the technician accused of stealing client data in 2008 from HSBC's Geneva office and passing it to French authorities, said a person with direct knowledge of the case who asked not to be identified.
HSBC was charged in France last month with money laundering through tax fraud and illegal marketing in a case stemming from the data theft. The bank faces a similar investigation in Belgium and last month agreed to pay $12.5 million to settle claims with the Securities and Exchange Commission that its Swiss private-banking unit solicited U.S. investors without being registered.
Falciani was detained in Geneva in December 2008 and questioned for several hours before being released. He was asked to return the next day but instead left for France and did not return. He lived in France for a time and turned up in Spain in mid-2012. Switzerland has failed in efforts to extradite him from France and Spain.
Swiss law forbids bank employees from passing account data to third parties unless the bank's clients or Switzerland's tax authority approves the disclosure. Data thieves risk prison sentences of as long as three years if convicted.