WikiLeaks unlikely to release Swiss bank data soon

* Delay seen before Swiss bank data published by WikiLeaks

* Documents may not be evidence of tax evasion

LONDON, Jan 18 (Reuters) - WikiLeaks is unlikely anytime soon to make public material provided to it this week by Swiss bank whistleblower Rudolf Elmer, according to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and sources close to Elmer.

At a London news conference on Monday, Elmer, former chief of the office of the Julius Baer BAER.VX Bank in the Cayman Islands, handed to Assange what he said were two discs containing information on about 2,000 offshore banking clients. [ID:nLDE70G1FU]

Assange said WikiLeaks would treat the information provided by Elmer like “all other information” the website received, which would include public revelations. However, he said, before any of the material is released, “it could be weeks. It could be longer.”

Assange indicated WikiLeaks and possibly media organizations would review Elmer’s material before making it public. He said this would take at least “a couple of weeks.”

Two sources familiar with the material said it was dense and not self-explanatory. One of the sources said the material contained a handful of names that might be recognizable.

Even in cases where names seemed familiar, the source said, there is no way to be sure from the material supplied to WikiLeaks of the identities of account holders and further investigation would have to be done to confirm the account holders’ identity.

Jack Blum, a former Congressional investigator and Washington lawyer who has been advising Elmer, said Elmer would not be releasing any names or corporate names from the data cache because the account data outlined financial “structures” which are “difficult to figure out what is going on.”

Blum also cautioned that even if account holders’ identities can be confirmed, this does not constitute evidence that such people are engaged in offshore tax evasion.

Blum said government investigators would be in the best position to confirm the identities of people involved in transactions documented by Elmer’s material.

Sources close to Elmer said some, if not most, of the material in his cache had been made available to government investigators in countries whose identities remain unknown.

Assange said WikiLeaks might hand over some of the material to Britain’s Serious Fraud Office.

Elmer, who was fired by Julius Baer in 2002, is due to go on trial in Switzerland on Wednesday for breaching bank secrecy. The bank has accused Elmer of pursuing a vendetta against the company.

Elmer and his lawyer maintain the Swiss prosecution is unfair because the material he allegedly leaked -- including some material on alleged offshore tax evasion abuses published by WikiLeaks -- originated in the Cayman Islands, where Swiss authorities arguably lack jurisdiction. (Editing by Janet Lawrence)