Swiss bank whistleblower appears in court

19th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Rudolf Elmer, a former Swiss banker who handed over secret banking data to whistleblowing website Wikileaks, appeared in court here on Wednesday to face charges of coercion and breaches of banking secrecy.

Prosecutors accused the 55-year-old former chief operating officer at private bank Julius Baer's subsidiary in the Cayman Islands of seeking to blackmail the bank, making threats and violating banking secrecy law with the leaks, according to court documents.

The charges stemmed from events following Elmer's dismissal by the bank in 2002 and the handover of a first set of bank client data to Wikileaks in 2007 in his stated quest to expose tax evasion systems.

Elmer, 55, told the district court in Zurich that he noticed before he was fired by Bank Julius Baer in 2002 that the bank's activities were "immoral, not conform with ethics and took a criminal turn."

That led him to "act against the offshore banking system," he added.

Elmer has said in recent months that he wanted the world to know the truth about money concealed in offshore accounts and tax evasion as well as the systems in place to keep it secret.

However, the public prosecutor contested the former banker's claim to be banking secrecy whistleblower before the court, arguing that he had only portrayed himself as such after he was dismissed.

In her written submission, the public prosecutor accused Elmer of sending an email to the bank in 2004 offering to hand over the data he held in return for 50,000 dollars (37,000 euros).

She also said Elmer had repeatedly threatened some bank employees by fax and e-mail, and been responsible for hoax bomb alert at Julius Baer.

Elmer denied both claims.

Judge Sebastian Aeppli said he expected to deliver a verdict later on Wednesday.

Elmer handed over another two CD-ROMs to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange at a press conference in London on Monday, saying that the data stemmed from at least three financial institutions and covered a period from 1990 to 2009.

© 2011 AFP

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