* Rudolf Elmer appeals against guilty verdict
* Drops charges against bank Julius Baer
* Fights for his reputation as whistleblower
ZURICH, Nov 17 A former Swiss banker
turned WikiLeaks whistleblower appealed on Thursday against his
conviction for breaching Switzerland's strict banking secrecy
laws after he revealed private client data.
Rudolf Elmer, who worked at the Cayman Islands branch of
Swiss private bank Julius Baer until he was fired in
2002, helped bring WikiLeaks to prominence when he used it to
publish bank documents to expose tax evasion.
A court convicted him in January of breaching bank secrecy
by passing on private client data to the tax authorities and of
threatening employees at his former company. He was sentenced to
a fine of 7,200 Swiss francs ($7,850) suspended for two years.
It was not clear whether the court would rule on the appeal
on Thursday or at a later date.
Elmer, who has run the website www.swisswhistleblower.com
since May 2008 and described himself as a "Gandhi of Swiss tax
law", argued Swiss bank secrecy should not apply, since the
documents he leaked referred to accounts in the Cayman Islands.
The 56-year-old said Baer waged a campaign of
"psycho-terror" against him and his family and had obsessively
followed him. But on Thursday he dropped charges he had brought
against the bank, without giving reasons.
Elmer has admitted sending confidential bank data to tax
authorities. But he denied blackmail and a bomb threat against
Julius Baer and denied allegations he took payments in return
for handing back secret data.
Elmer said he had kept hold of documents on USB sticks and
brought them back to Switzerland out of fear and denied being
motivated by revenge after he was fired.
"I was afraid something could happen to me," he told the
Swiss police rearrested Elmer in January after he gave
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange new discs he said at the time
held data on hundreds of offshore account holders.
He was kept in investigative custody for six months but
later said the discs did not contain bank data after all.
About a dozen left-wing protesters gathered outside the
court in Zurich with red flags and banners in support of Elmer.
"A witness of a crime is sitting in the dock and the
criminals are acting the part of plaintiff," said David Roth,
president of the youth wing of the Social Democrats in a flyer.
Swiss bank secrecy has come under global attack in recent
years, as cash-strapped governments seek to boost revenue by
cracking down on tax cheats.
Switzerland last year gave details of about 4,450 UBS
accounts to U.S. authorities as part of a deal to settle a tax
probe into its biggest bank despite strict secrecy laws.
($1 = 0.917 Swiss Francs)
(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Jon Hemming)