Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Swiss bank whistleblower faces trial
A former Swiss banker on Monday supplied documents to WikiLeaks that he alleges detail attempts by wealthy business leaders and lawmakers to evade tax payments.
Rudolf Elmer, an ex-employee of Swiss-based Bank Julius Baer, said there were 2,000 account holders named in the documents, but refused to give details of the companies or individuals involved.
He has previously offered files to WikiLeaks on financial activities in the Cayman Islands and faces a court hearing in Zurich on Wednesday to answer charges of coercion and violating Switzerland's strict banking secrecy laws.
"I do think as a banker I have the right to stand up if something is wrong," said Elmer, who addressed reporters at London's Frontline Club alongside WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
"I am against the system. I know how the system works and I know the day-to-day business. From that point of view, I wanted to let society know what I know. It is damaging our society," Elmer said.
Assange praised the ex-banker's attempts to expose alleged shady practices in the financial industry. He was making a rare public appearance since he was released on bail on Dec. 16 following his arrest on a Swedish extradition warrant.
Elmer claims his previous disclosures showed evidence of major tax avoidance in the Caribbean.
However, Assange said that with WikiLeaks focussed on other issues -- such as the publication of its cache of about 250,000 diplomatic cables, it could be several weeks before Elmer's latest files are reviewed and posted on the organization's website.
The organization has so far posted about 2,444 cables to the Internet since it began publishing the documents in November.
Assange said that, as with other WikiLeaks releases, media organizations -- he named the Financial Times and Bloomberg as possible candidates -- could be given the information ahead of time.
He said that the files, or parts of the files, may also be provided to British government fraud investigators to examine for any evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
"We will treat this information like all other information we get," Assange said. "There will be a full revelation."
The Julius Baer bank said it was aware of Elmer's decision to pass a new set of files to WikiLeaks.
"He didn't attack us at this press conference, he explicitly targeted not us but 'the system,'" the bank's spokesman Jan Vonder Muehll said.
Britain's tax authority declined to comment when asked about Assange's plan to supply details of alleged wrongdoing.
Under the terms of his release on bail, Assange must live at the mansion home of Vaughan Smith, the owner of the Frontline Club. He has compared the regime to "high-tech house arrest," but has recently promised that the flow of leaked documents published by his organization would increase.