Swiss whistleblower guilty of breaching bank secrecy: court

Written by: Pti
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Zurich, Jan 19 (AFP) A Swiss court today found formerbanker Rudolf Elmer, who handed over secret data towhistleblowing website Wikileaks, guilty of breaching banksecrecy laws and handed down a suspended fine.

A judge said the 55-year-old former chief operatingofficer at private bank Julius Baer''s subsidiary in the CaymanIslands was found guilty of seeking to blackmail the bank,making threats and violating banking secrecy laws.

Elmer was acquitted by the district court in Zurich ofaccusations of making a bomb hoax that were levelled by thepublic prosecutor during the one day trial.

Judge Sebastian Aeppli sentenced the former banker to asuspended fine of 7,200 Swiss francs (5,500 euros), notingthat Elmer had "for years been a part of the banking world"and had "benefited" from this.

His motives in handing over a set of bank client datato website WikiLeaks in 2007 were therefore not to fight taxevasion, but stemmed from his dismissal from Julius Baer fiveyears earlier, said the judge.

Elmer has claimed that he wanted the world to know thetruth about money concealed in offshore accounts and taxevasion as well as the systems in place to keep it secret.

In court, he described the bank''s activities as"immoral, not conform with ethics" and said they "took acriminal turn."

He denied alleged threats but acknowledged that hehad sent data to Swiss tax authorities.

Defence lawyer Ganden Tethong Blattner told the trialon Wednesday that Elmer was engaged in a "David againstGoliath" battle.

She argued that Swiss banking secrecy law was notapplicable in the Cayman Islands, the Caribbean offshorebanking haven where Elmer worked for the Julius Baer Bankingand Trust Company.

However, public prosecutor Alexandra Bergmanncontested the former banker''s claim to be banking secrecy''swhistleblower, arguing that he had only portrayed himself assuch after he was dismissed.

She accused Elmer of sending an email to the bank in2004 offering to hand over the data he held in return forUSD 50,000 (37,000 euros).

Two days before his court appearance, Elmer handedover another two CD-ROMs of bank information to WikiLeaksfounder Julian Assange at a press conference in London onMonday, saying that the data stemmed from at least threefinancial institutions and covered a period from 1990 to 2009.

According to the former banker, the clients listed onthe two latest discs include about 40 politicians,multinational companies and financial institutions from theUnited States, Europe and Asia.

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