Falciani’s Tax Bomb: The Man Behind The Swiss Leaks

Ben Lewis

Germany/Spain 2015, 1h 30min.

«Am I a thief? Yes, I did break the law – but it was a law that hurt everyone. (…) If you work for the system, you understand the system. And that is what became unbearable.» (Hervé Falciani)

Ten years ago, Julian Assange founded the online site Wikileaks, an open digital library of sensitive information related to military operations and other controversial revelations. Whilst the term whistle blower is far from new, the phenomenon has been subject to extensive media attention over the past decade, which has added to the impact of a whistle blower’s agenda.


Whistle blowers such as Assange, Chelsey Manning and Edward Snowden are hailed as heroes and celebrities, but they pay the price in terms of lengthy exiles and loss of past livelihoods.

The role of a whistle blower constitutes a refreshing change from more traditional heroic personas, and are increasingly often portrayed in fictional films and documentaries. Examples include Bill Condon’s thriller The Fifth Estate (2013) about Julian Assange, Laura Poitras’ documentary Citizenfour (2014) on Edward Snowden, and Oliver Stones’ current release Snowden (2016).

Catchy and impersonal. The story about IT-engineer Hervé Falciani illustrates how an invisible civil servant helped pulverise an institution which has been central to the world’s financial elite, with roots dating back to the French Revolution; Das Bankgeheimnis, or banking secrecy.

Director Ben Lewis is better known for the documentaries Hammer & Tickle (2006), Google and the World Brain (2013), and Poor Us: An American History of Poverty (2012). In Falciani’s Tax Bomb, Lewis untangles Falcani’s whistle blowing adventure in a harsh, catchy and detailed documentary featuring well-informed interviewees. The graphic and musical elements conjure up financial thrillers such as James Bond and Jason Bourne. The film is not a deeply personal portrait of the main character, and the director offers nothing more than a superficial attempt at understanding Falciani’s motivation and relationship with his employer HSBC.

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