It is a story straight out of a James Bond movie. A corrupt bank, the world’s richest people, an employee turned international whistleblower and data. A lot of data. Currently being referred to as the "Swiss Leaks," it is considered the greatest security breach in Swiss banking history – a scandal that has shocked the world.

In the age of WikiLeaks and whistleblowing, it might actually be a good thing to be poor.

In 2008, former HSBC employee Hervé Falciani stole private data related to accounts at HSBC that show evidence of money laundering, serious tax evasion and other sketchy activities. In February 2008, the French-Italian dual national Falciani flew to Beirut with a Georgina Mikhael, a fellow employee and rumored lover at the time. Under the alias Ruben Al-Chidiak, Falciani proceeded to meet with several banks with the claimed objective of “raising an alert” that would “get back to Swiss authorities.”

Others (the Swiss government) have taken a less-kind look at this trip, and decided that Faliani was selling the information to Lebanese banks.

Upon his return to France, Falciani contacted European tax authorities and intelligence agencies offering a Tax Evasion Client List, going even further to give the French authorities “an encrypted list containing the personal information on seven HSBC clients based in France,” according to the ICIJ. In 2009, after refusing to extradite Falciani to Switzerland based on his being a French citizen, France got to work on the encrypted list, eventually sending out shorter lists with names of HSBC clients suspected of tax evasion in several European countries including Spain and Greece.  After allegedly receiving death threats, Falciani left France only to be arrested in Barcelona on July 1, 2012. His incarceration lasted for 5 and a half months, with Spain also refusing to extradite Falciani in 2013.

In a press release  on Dec. 11 th, 2014, the Swiss attorney general officially charged Falciani with theft of data from HSBC, saying that the “data and information on the Bank’s clients that was both personal and financial in nature, thus creating complete client profiles with the intent – as is the hypothesis of the (Office of the Attorney General) – at least in the initial phase in Lebanon, of cashing in on this data.”

Flash forward to 2015, after the list became public and gained a fair share of online attention, HSBC offered a letter of apology over its Swiss private banking row on February 15th .  The bank states that, since the data leak of 2008, it has “fundamentally changed” the way it is run, cutting almost 70% of its Swiss private bank accounts. The letter adds:

“We would like to provide some reassurance and state some of the facts that lie behind the stories. The media focus has been on historical events that show the standards to which we operate today were not universally in place in our Swiss operations eight years ago” and that “We must show we understand that the societies we serve expect more from us. We therefore offer our sincerest apologies.”

Convenient, no?

A few days after issuing the letter, prosecutors in Switzerland mounted a money-laundering investigation into HSBC’s Geneva-based private banking subsidiary, aiming to see if the bank had taken “all the organizational measures necessary to prevent violations of the law.”  HSBC chairman Douglas Flint is due to appear next Wednesday before a committee of parliamentarians in London to defend the new reformations to the way the bank is being managed.

With Lebanon ranking as #11 highest number of clients in the world and #12 highest transactions in the world, outranking countries such as Germany, Spain and the Netherlands, it is no surprise that the news of this list spread like wildfire on Lebanese social media.