Spanish court to question former HSBC executives in tax probe

(Adds details from ruling)

MADRID, May 4 (Reuters) - Spain's High Court is to question

seven former executives from HSBC's Swiss private bank

as part of an investigation into alleged money laundering and

tax fraud triggered by tax information leaks from former

employee Herve Falciani.

The court said in a ruling, published on Thursday, it had

decided to widen the investigation to study the flow of funds

from HSBC's Swiss private bank to Spain's Banco Santander

and France's BNP Paribas.

"These entities have collaborated to repatriate funds

deposited in HSBC's Swiss private bank with the aim of

concealing them from Spanish tax authorities," the court said in

a separate statement also published on Thursday.

HSBC, which reported first-quarter results on Thursday,

declined to comment.

The Spanish investigation is one of many by national tax

authorities as a result of the leak in 2008 of client data

belonging to HSBC's private bank by Falciani, a former IT

employee at the bank. France, Austria, Belgium and Argentina

have launched their own investigations.

Falciani, a French citizen, has said he is a whistleblower

trying to help governments track down citizens who used Swiss

accounts to evade tax. In 2015, a Swiss court sentenced him, in

his absence, to five years in prison for aggravated industrial

espionage.

On Wednesday, the Spanish court ruled that seven current and

former Santander bankers and three former bankers from BNP's

Spanish unit would be questioned, with hearings set for June.

Santander said it had actively cooperated with the court, while

BNP declined to comment.

HSBC's Swiss private bank channelled almost 74 million euros

($81 million) through Santander between 2005 and 2008 to pay

clients at other banks, Wednesday's court ruling said.

The High Court said on Thursday the seven former HSBC

executives would be summoned as suspects under investigation for

possible crimes of money laundering and organised crime.

Under the Spanish legal system, people can be named as

formal suspects until a more detailed investigation is carried

out.

(Reporting By Jesús Aguado and Angus Berwick; Additional

reporting by Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Jane Merriman)