A Swiss court has convicted in absentia a former employee with international bank HSBC for economic espionage and sentenced him to five years in prison.

Herve Falciani — seen by some as a crucial whistleblower — had refused to travel from his native France to appear before the Swiss Federal Tribunal in Bellinzona in proceedings that began in October.

France does not extradite its own citizens and Falciani appears unlikely to serve the sentence.

Falciani was on trial for leaking bank data that led to a worldwide wave of tax evasion probes against prominent clients in France and elsewhere.

He was charged with illegally obtaining data, economic espionage, breach of business confidentiality and breach of bank secrecy while working at a Swiss HSBC subsidiary between 2006 and 2008.