According to a 2012 study by James Henry, a former chief economist at McKinsey who now advises the Tax Justice Network, the world’s wealthiest people salt away at least twenty-one trillion dollars beyond the reach of tax authorities. In a book published last year, “The Hidden Wealth of Nations,” the economist Gabriel Zucman offers a lower, yet still enormous, estimate: $7.6 trillion, or eight per cent of the world’s personal financial wealth. Zucman calculates that “the fraud perpetuated through unreported foreign accounts each year costs about $200 billion to governments throughout the world.”
The data that Falciani stole could function as a treasure map, enabling a country like France to recover some of that lost revenue. Montgolfier said, “When you have so many French people with Swiss accounts”—he raised his eyebrows and his shoulders in a synchronized Gallic shrug—“it has a perfume of fraud.”
Fascinating and long profile of Hervé Falciani. He leaked details of Swiss accounts at HSBC to French and other tax authorities.