The files at the foundation of the Swiss Leaks project are based on data secreted away by Hervé Falciani, a former HSBC employee-turned-whistleblower. He turned the data over to the French government in 2008 and its tax authority launched an investigation.
The French newspaper Le Monde obtained a version of the tax authority data, which covers accounts of more than 100,000 individuals and legal entities from more than 200 countries. The newspaper shared it with ICIJ with the agreement that it would assemble a global team of journalists to explore the data and produce this reporting project.
The data comes from three types of internal bank files from different time periods. One reflects clients and their associated private accounts at the Swiss branch of the bank, mostly ranging from 1988 to 2007. Another is a snapshot of the maximum amounts in the client accounts during 2006 and 2007. The third is of notes on clients and conversations with them made by bank employees during 2005.
The files show the accounts to hold more than $100 billion in total, from $12.6 billion held in the name of governmental institutions from the oil rich nation of Venezuela under the late former leader Hugh Chávez, to amounts recorded as zero. The confidential files also provide a wealth of other detail, such as secretive offshore companies linked to some accounts.
You can explore the data by country, and see a sample of HSBC’s clients using ICIJ’s Swiss Leaks interactive application.