Swiss whistleblower hands bank data to WikiLeaks

LONDON Mon Jan 17, 2011 1:32pm EST

1 of 5. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (L) receives CD's containing data on offshore bank account holders from former Swiss private banker Rudolf Elmer at the Frontline club in London, January 17, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Paul Hackett

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LONDON (Reuters) - A former Swiss private banker handed over data on hundreds of offshore bank account holders to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Monday, saying he wanted to draw attention to financial abuses.

Rudolf Elmer, 55, headed the office of Julius Baer in the Cayman Islands until he was fired by the bank in 2002. He is scheduled to go on trial in Switzerland on Wednesday for breaching bank secrecy.

Swiss national Elmer handed Assange the data at a news conference at a media club in London. The two yellow and blue discs contain information on around 2,000 banking clients, both individuals and companies, he said, declining to reveal further details on the data.

"Working in the Cayman Islands I realized that something was wrong... I want to let our society know what I do know because it's damaging our society in a way that money is moved away by financial institutions, multinational conglomerates and high-net-worth individuals, money is hidden in offshore ventures," Elmer told a room packed with reporters.

Julius Baer has accused Elmer of embarking on a vendetta against the company. Its shares fell more than 3 percent on Monday and traders cited the WikiLeaks link as a potential factor.


WikiLeaks will take at least "a couple of weeks" to vet the data before publishing it, Assange said. Vetting will be done by themselves, media organizations and other partners to protect sources.

"We have a four-year publishing history. We have never been wrong ... so far as we are aware in relation to anything we have published," said Assange, who is on bail in Britain and fighting extradition to Sweden where he faces questioning over alleged sex crimes. WikiLeaks may also hand over some of the material to Britain's Serious Fraud Office, he added.

In 2007 Elmer became one of the first whistleblowers to use WikiLeaks, which angered U.S. authorities last year by publishing hundreds of secret diplomatic cables it had obtained.

Assange said the data Elmer had provided previously about the Cayman Islands revealed "corrupt practices" and "clear asset-hiding." He said he expected similar revelations from the new data.

Julius Baer denounced Elmer for waging a campaign to discredit the bank and its customers.

"After his demands (including financial compensation) in connection with the dismissal could not be satisfied, Mr Elmer embarked in 2004 on a personal intimidation campaign and vendetta against Julius Baer," the bank said in a statement.

"The aim of his activities was and is to discredit Julius Baer as well as clients in the eyes of the public."

(Editing by Noah Barkin)

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Comments (12)
brian-decree wrote:
The ONLY reason offshore banking exists and flourishes is to aid criminal behavior. There is no other need for such secrecy..

It should be internationally illegal.
Because if it were so, it would be impossible to profit so much from crime, war and dictatorship.
Clandestine offshore banks are the absolute pivotal crux to breaking a multi-trillion dollar criminal network of drugs, exploitation and dictatorship.
Any country harboring these seedy institutions should be seen as anti-social by the world community and face international sanctions.

Experts will attest to the FACT that without these institutions most of the worlds great crimes would be impossible.

If authorities anywhere in the world are serious about peace and democracy they will have to join the call to outlaw them.

If they don’t, they will be giving criminals the keys to your house…

Jan 17, 2011 4:29am EST  --  Report as abuse
vksaini wrote:
To bring the truth on screen for the benefit of overall global society is a great service!

Jan 17, 2011 9:12am EST  --  Report as abuse
GreyWolfSC wrote:
The US _wanted_ this info. Watch us do a temporary 360.

Jan 17, 2011 12:06pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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