Rudolf Elmer, whistleblower or bitter ex-banker?
Rudolf Elmer, the former senior Swiss bank executive who handed over secret banking data to Wikileaks on Monday, says he is a whistleblower out to expose a system of offshore tax evasion.
However, Swiss private bank Julius Baer portrays Elmer as a disgruntled former employee who is waging a personal vendetta after being fired in 2002.
On his website swisswhistleblower.com, the former chief operating officer of Julius Baer's bank and trust company in the Cayman Islands, a renowned Caribbean financial haven, tries to explain his quest.
"Offshore tax evasion is the biggest theft among societies... in this world," he writes, after a banking career in which he "counted and protected" the money of the very wealthy, financial institutions and multinational companies.
His main aim is to challenge banking secrecy before the European Court of Human Rights, as well as the Swiss justice system that he will face on Wednesday.
Elmer is due to appear on Wednesday before a district court in Zurich on charges of "coercion" and breaching Swiss banking secrecy laws.
The public prosceutor accused him of seeking to blackmail the bank by threatening to publish documents and is seeking a suspended eight month jail sentence as well as a 2,000 Swiss franc (1,555 euro) fine.
The former banker nonethless believes that it is possible to have an "ethical and moral" system of wealth management.
When Elmer was sacked in 2002 he left the bank with a ream of internal documents, a claim confirmed by Julius Baer in 2005 when it lodged a formal legal complaint against persons unknown.
In 2008, data Elmer provided was published on Wikileaks, promoting a US court to serve a temporary injunction closing down the whistleblowing website at the request of the bank.
Swiss television SF1 reported some of the documents turned out to be false.
Bank Julius Baer described Elmer as "disgruntled and frustrated about unfulfilled career aspirations," who made "baseless accusations" who passed on "unlawfully acquired" documents to the media.
In a statement e-mailed AFP, it said "Elmer exhibited behaviour that was detrimental and unacceptable for the bank," leading to his dismissal in 2002.
A spokesman said the former executive was in charge of security and had created "serious problems", and had refused to submit to a lie detector test.
© 2011 AFP