The Spanish justice minister says there is no link between Wednesday’s arrest in Spain of the former HSBC IT specialist Hervé Falciani, wanted by the Swiss authorities, and the international warrants issued by the Spanish judiciary for the arrest of pro-independence leader Marta Rovira, who is currently seeking refuge from the Spanish courts in Switzerland.
Another pro-independence politician, far-left CUP Anna Gabriel, is also in Geneva, and although no international arrest warrant against her has been issued, she is wanted by the Spanish authorities and would be arrested if she goes back to Spain.
Spain’s Minister of Justice, Rafael Català, said on Thursday that “there is no political decisions or government handling in these issues,” and he insisted that the arrest of Falciani, who caused a tax evasion scandal at the Swiss bank when he leaked data on thousands of wealthy customers, is simply due to “an international request and an exercise of cooperation by security forces, as will later happen in the courts.”
Switzerland denies Spanish government statement
Falciani, who is a French citizen, denies the claims by the Swiss authorities that he stole and then attempted to sell the bank’s confidential data, arguing that he is a whistleblower who aimed to expose a “broken” banking system. Still, Catalá justified Falciani’s detention after Switzerland reissued its request for his arrest on March 19.
After Catalá's statement, a spokesman from the Swiss government told the Catalan News Agency (ACN) that the international arrest warrant against Falciani was reissued in May 2017. "It is completely wrong to claim that he has only been wanted since March 19, 2018," pointed out the spokesman from the Swiss justice ministry.
According to the official, Switzerland reissued the international arrest warrant in May last year at the request of the public prosecutor's office of the Canton of Geneva. In addition, the spokesman recalled that Falciani "is no longer wanted for the purpose of prosecution but for the purpose of executing the prison sentence."
Spanish court lets Falciani free while a decision is made
Falciani, who is a French citizen, denies the claims by the Swiss authorities that he stole and then attempted to sell the bank’s confidential data, arguing that he is a whistleblower who aimed to expose a “broken” banking system. Yet, Català justified the detention after Switzerland reissued its request for Falciani’s arrest on April 19 and said that “it will be a court that will decide on what decision to make.” Some years ago, the Spanish justice rejected Falciani extradition on the grounds that his alleged crimes were not criminal offences in Spain. Now, the case will be reconsidered.
Spain's national court let Falciani walk free on Thursday while a final decision on his extradition is made. Yet, the judge decided to seize his passport and impose surveillance measures to make sure he does not flee the country.
Pro-independence leader seeking refuge in Switzerland
Former CUP party MP Anna Gabriel sought refuge in Switzerland in February rather than appear in Spain’s Supreme Court for her part in the independence bid. Gabriel justified her decision with the argument that she would not get a fair trial in Spain. In March, ERC party leader Marta Rovira also reportedly left for Switzerland just a day before her court appearance, when a number of Catalan MPs were held in custody pending charges of rebellion and misuse of public funds.