France’s top court has ruled that bank data taken from a Geneva branch of the HSBC bank was illegally obtained and could not be used in a crackdown on tax evaders.
The ruling by the Court of Cassation was published on Tuesday, and upheld a February 2011 decision by the Court of Appeal. It cannot be contested.
The data was stolen in 2007 by a former employee of the HSBC private bank and handed over to the French tax authorities.
The court said it could not be used by French investigating authorities as evidence enabling them to carry out property searches of those listed in an attempt to uncover tax evasion offences.
The stolen data included information on about 15,000 customers of the bank, of which 3,000 were French. The data was passed onto other countries.
HSBC said it was pleased with the ruling which confirmed that the data had been acquired illegally.
The budget ministry which had contested the Court of Appeal decision said it had no impact on tax and criminal procedures underway.