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Defendant in 'Swissleaks' case fails to attend trial

The Swiss trial against a former employee of HSBC has been postponed after the defendant failed to come to court. The so-called "Swissleaks" case revealed HSBC helped more than 100,000 clients evade taxes.

Herve Falciani, a former IT employee at HSBC bank's Swiss operation who leaked information on tax evading accounts, failed to show up to trial on Monday to face charges of data theft, industrial espionage and violating Swiss banking secrecy laws.

The 43-year-old French-Italian

leaked the information of more than 100,000 HSBC clients who had hidden away some 180 billion euros ($205 billion)

from tax authorities.

The prosecutor in the case asked for an adjournment, which was granted by the court. The next hearing is scheduled for November 2, though Falciani may still be tried in absentia.

Falciani, who lives in France, had previously said he would not come to the trial. France has said it would not extradite the whistleblower, who has helped French authorities

go after tax evaders.

Falciani started working at the British bank HSBC in 2000 at its Swiss subsidiary. As an IT professional he had access to troves of data, which he took in 2007 and tried unsuccessfully to sell in Lebanon.

Swiss authorities have accused Falciani of trying to cash in on the clients' information, but Falciani maintains he was trying to expose tax cheaters and money laundering.

After his failed attempt to sell the data in Lebanon, Falciani handed over the information to European fiscal authorities, who have used it to go after tax cheats and money laundering. He is widely regarded as a whistleblower.

In June, HSBC agreed to pay millions of euros in fines for alleged violations, while Swiss prosecutors closed their investigation.

France, Belgium, Austria and Argentina have also launched investigations into the bank.

cw/bk (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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