Swiss police on Wednesday arrested former banker Rudolf Elmer on fresh charges of breaching Swiss bank secrecy law for giving data to WikiLeaks, hours after he was found guilty of another secrecy offense.
"The state prosecutor's office is checking to see whether Rudolf Elmer has violated Swiss banking law by handing the CD over to WikiLeaks," the Zurich cantonal (state) police and state prosecutor said in a joint statement.
Earlier on Wednesday, a court found Elmer guilty of breaching banking secrecy for publicising private client data. He was also found guilty of threatening an employee at his former firm Julius Baer.
Submitted by KnowledgeEmpire on Wed, 01/19/2011 - 15:57
Mr. Elmer, who was chief operating officer at private bank Julius Baer's office in the Cayman Islands, argued in his defence that Swiss banking laws were not officially breached since the disclosed information does not refer to Swiss bank accounts, only accounts in the Caymans.
Judge Sebastian Aeppli rejected the prosecution's demand for an eight-month prison sentence, opting instead for a suspended fine of 6,000 Swiss francs.
Mr. Elmer did not deny making threats to Julius Baer and admitted to a BBC correspondent that he had "made big mistakes," but he denied acting on the basis of revenge, adding "I defended myself. That's human nature." A further update points out that "[d]uring the one-day hearing in Zurich on Wednesday, Mr Elmer alleged that his former employer had him followed and that he felt desperate."
"We were under surveillance," he said. "The situation was very threatening. We were very scared and I thought the bank was behind it."
He said this is why he sent the bank emails in 2005 threatening to pass the offshore bank account details of Julius Baer clients onto tax authorities in Switzerland, the US and the UK, as well as to the media.
As previously reported here, Mr. Elmer handed over to Wikileaks two CDs containing leaked information on 2,000 bank accounts. The account holders involved "include celebrities, as well as business leaders and lawmakers."
Mr. Elmer's lawyer, Jack Blum, told the New York Times (NYT) that the documents
detail the undisclosed role of American investment management companies in funnelling American, European and South American clients who wished to avoid taxes to Julius Baer; the backdating of documents to establish trusts and foundations used to evade taxes; and the funnelling of trades for hedge funds and private equity firms from high-tax jurisdictions through Baer entities in the Cayman Islands.
“What he has is the confirmation of something very important: that a number of other banks in the voluntary disclosure process are turning up,” Mr. Blum said, referring to 14,700 wealthy Americans, many of them UBS clients, who came forward to disclose their secret accounts last year. The I.R.S. declined to comment on Mr. Elmer’s case but said in a statement that it was “investigating other banks that have enabled Americans to evade taxes.”
As was reported in the same January 18 NYT article, Julius Baer, a 120-year-old private bank, "is known for intense privacy. Its board chairman, Raymond J. Baer, told shareholders last April that “the fiction of citizens being fully transparent must never become reality.”