A banker who claims to have handed WikiLeaks details of rich tax evaders has gone on trial accused of breaking Switzerland’s strict banking secrecy laws.
Zurich prosecutors claim that Rudolf Elmer stole client data after being fired from his job at the Cayman Islands branch of Julius Baer and then tried to extort money from the Swiss-based bank and its senior executives.
Prosecutor Alexandra Bergmann also alleges that Elmer, 55, illegally gave details on the bank’s offshore clients to tax authorities, media and, later, WikiLeaks.
Elmer publicly handed over two more data CDs to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in London on Monday. Elmer claimed the disks contained names of 2,000 wealthy account holders but refused to give details of the companies or individuals involved.
Prosecutors are calling for an eight-month sentence and fine for what Julius Baer says was a vendetta by a disgruntled employee against it. Elmer claims he was trying to expose a widespread system of tax evasion by rich businesspeople and politicians.
Appearing before a single judge at Zurich’s administrative court, Elmer admitted sending threatening messages to some bank officials but insisted he had done so after the bank fired him from his job at its Cayman Islands branch and then intimidated him.
“I was in an extreme situation,” he said. “It’s logical that I developed a defence strategy.”
He denied issuing a bomb threat against the bank but admitted threatening to send details of the bank’s exclusive offshore clients to tax authorities in Switzerland, Britain and the United States. Elmer said the data would also be sent to Neo-Nazi organisations “and other organisations which fight the capitalism (sic),” according to a prosecution statement.
Elmer was fired in 2002 after refusing to take a lie detector test on the Cayman Islands, where he had worked for the bank for eight years.
Prosecutors claim he spent the next few years moving between Switzerland, the Isle of Man, Germany, Austria and Mauritius. At times he is alleged to have offered to sell stolen data back to Julius Baer while he also threatened to expose what he described as “unethical or even criminal behaviour” by the bank’s senior management.