Swiss whistleblower banker on trial

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

GENEVA - A former top Swiss private banking executive turned WikiLeaks collaborator appeared in a Zurich court Wednesday on charges of violating Switzerland’s secrecy laws.

Rudolf Elmer, a former Julius Baer Bank executive, is alleged to have divulged information about clients and the bank in violation of bank privacy and corporate secrecy laws.

The Zurich-based wealth management bank alleges that after it sacked the 55-year-old Cayman Islands-based employee in 2002, Elmer tried to use the information to extort money from it and, when that failed, he made the secret data public.

Elmer’s lawyers argue that Switzerland’s strict secrecy laws do not apply in the Caymans and say he released confidential information only as a whistleblower.

Elmer admitted in court to dispatching anonymous threatening letters to bank staff, saying he was under intense psychological pressure, and claimed that Julius Baer had offered him cash to maintain secrecy. He denied claims that he sent bomb threats.

Zurich prosecutors are seeking an eight-month jail term and a fine of over 2,000 dollars. They told a judge that Elmer is not a true whistleblower, as the former executive argues.

Earlier this week, the 55-year-old Elmer added to the controversy by giving WikiLeaks two disks, which he said contained data on 2,000 clients of elite Swiss banks.

It was the second time he supplied banking information to the online whistleblower.

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