THE Swiss whistleblower Rudolf Elmer has provided WikiLeaks with two CDs containing information on more than 2000 bank clients suspected of tax evasion.
The disks were handed over in London last night to the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. They are said to contain secret bank details of clients, including politicians, multinationals, hedge funds and organised-crime figures.
Mr Assange, on bail before an extradition hearing in London next month over Swedish sexual assault charges, said that Mr Elmer has been fighting to have the information made public for five years.
“I am here today to support him,” Mr Assange said. “He is going through a prosecution in Switzerland and he is a whistleblower. He has more to say and give to the world to show asset-hiding, whether it be for tax evasion or to hide proceeds of criminal acts or to protect assets from people in nations who are about to fall out of political favour.
“There will be full revelation of names by WikiLeaks at a later date, assuming the data is correct and once we have had a look at it.”
Mr Assange said the information could be released in the next few weeks.
Mr Elmer, 55, is a former executive at Bank Julius Baer, one of Switzerland’s top private banks.
He said that many of those identified in the CDs have exploited bank secrecy laws to avoid taxation. However, he said he could not – and would not – reveal names contained in the CDs due to the complexity of the systems used to hide money and the difficulties in unravelling the real beneficiaries.
“If you can’t destroy the evidence, beat the witness; that is what is happening to me,” he said. “Others sold information to foreign governments. If I did that I could not stand here and feel that my conscience would allow me. I did offer the information free to [the] German Finance Minister. I got no response.
“I want to talk about the Swiss secrecy system, which is damaging our society. The short story is simple: I was in the Cayman Islands and there was a mouse tail and I started to pull on it. The tail got bigger, looked like a dragon tail. I went back to Switzerland and it became bigger, a fire-breathing dragon with several heads. One head was the banks, the other the Swiss press, to an extent, and they all came after me and my family.”
Mr Elmer faces court in Zurich tomorrow over allegations that he breached Swiss banking laws after he handed client data to WikiLeaks in 2007.
He left the bank in 2004 after eight years at its Cayman Islands trust subsidiary. During that time, he has said, he became aware of widespread tax evasion by prominent customers and that this occurred with the full knowledge of the bank’s top management.
The bank has denied the claims and accused Mr Elmer of continuing a long campaign which allegedly saw him approach bank clients and pressure them.
Mr Elmer in return has alleged he has been followed and threatened. Swiss journalists who have followed the story have called into question some of his claims.