Swiss won't help France investigate tax case using stolen data

ZURICH, April 5 (Reuters) - Switzerland's highest court has

rejected a French request for help in investigating a married

couple for tax offences, ruling that data stolen from HSBC's

Geneva private bank was inadmissible.

The ruling comes amid the latest scandal to hit Credit

Suisse after an anonymous tipster alerted Dutch authorities to

thousands of suspect accounts that triggered police raids last

week.

The French couple were discovered via information leaked by

Herve Falciani, a former IT employee who fled HSBC in 2008 with

files that he alleged showed evidence of tax evasion by clients.

The French newspaper Le Monde has said it identified more

than 106,000 clients.

French officials asked Swiss tax authorities in 2014 for

assistance in investigating the French couple suspected of

having an undeclared bank account in Switzerland.

The Swiss authorities agreed, but their decision was

overturned after an appeal by the unnamed couple.

In a March ruling announced on Wednesday, the Swiss Federal

Supreme Court confirmed the lower court's decision. It said

requests for administrative assistance would not be approved

when based on information obtained illegally.

"The criminal origin of the Falciani data is undisputed,"

the court said in a statement. "Especially because Herve

Falciani was convicted in 2015."

A Swiss court sentenced Falciani to five years in prison for

aggravated industrial sabotage, but he has avoided serving time

by remaining in France.

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

trying to help governments track down citizens who used Swiss

accounts to evade tax. Spain, Austria, Belgium and Argentina

have also launched their own investigations.

Switzerland last year received an overall rating of "largely

compliant" in an international review of how well it shares

information with other countries on tax matters, but how it

handles stolen data remained an issue.

(Reporting by John Revill; editing by Mark Heinrich)