Sunday, January 23, 2011

Ex-Banker and Whistleblower Rudolf Elmer Detained

By Jerry Smith Jan 23 2011

A Swiss court has ordered former Julius Baer banker and Wikileaker Rudolf Elmer detained for 10 days. The Swiss authorities are holding him while they probe whether he handed secret account details to WikiLeaks founder and editor, Julian Assange.

On Jan. 17 at the Frontline Club in London, Rudolf Elmer handed Julian Assange two CDs of documents. Elmer says the CDs contain details of rich individuals who use offshore accounts to avoid paying tax. He also claims the account holders include "high net worth" celebrities, business leaders and lawmakers from the U.S., Britain and Asia.

Prosecutors are investigating possible breaches of banking secrecy laws in the handover of discs on Monday. "The state prosecutor's office is checking to see whether Rudolf Elmer has violated Swiss banking law by handing the CD over to WikiLeaks," the Zurich cantonal (state) police and state prosecutor said in a joint statement. They declined to give further details.

"As Elmer has made public outside of the criminal proceedings, bank customer data is apparently on the CDs. The attorney general's office is examining if Elmer via the transfer of the CDs to WikiLeaks made himself culpable of an act against the Swiss banking law," the release said.

The former banker was arrested at his home on Wednesday. Earlier in the day he was found guilty of sending death threats via e-mail to Christoph Hiestand, an employee in the bank’s legal department, several counts of attempted duress and multiple counts of breaking banking secrecy. Elmer received a sentence of a fine of 7,200 Swiss francs ($7,506), which was suspended for two years and payable only if he offends again in the next two years and no jail time.

Assange has said that with WikiLeaks focused on other issues, such as the publication of its cache of about 250,000 diplomatic cables, it could be several weeks before Elmer's latest files are reviewed and posted on the organization's website.

In an interview published in the Swiss weekly Der Sonntag, Assange attacked Switzerland on Sunday for arresting a Swiss banker on suspicion of breaching banking secrecy instead of investigating the tax evasion he said he had uncovered.

The court ruled that “there is danger of collusion,” and “probable cause to arrest,” according to Ganden Tethong and the law firm Tethong Blattner that represents Elmer. The court is scheduled to announce its decision tomorrow.

Mr. Elmer, who opposes the grounds of the decision, will appeal within ten days.

Elmer's lawyers confirmed to TIMES NOW that they will file an appeal very shortly.

Excerpts from the Interview

Reporter: What is the primary defence point against Mr Elmer?

Elmer's lawyer Ganden Tethong: The crucial point is Swiss Courts only have jurisdiction if data of banks domiciled in Switzerland are involved. And there is no evidence yet that any such data is involved.

Reporter: When is Mr Elmer likely to get bail? And what is the legal option being taken by you?

Tethong: In case the prosecutor will request remand, we will oppose this at the hearing, which will happen within 48 hours of the court receiving the request for remand. During this hearing, we will present our arguments.

Reporter: Do you have access to Elmer while he is in custody?

Tethong: As his Defence lawyer, I have access to Mr Elmer

Reporter: Have you spoken to Mr Elmer since his arrest?

Tethong: I had a chance to speak to Mr Elmer before his interrogation at the prosecutor's office yesterday. I am going to meet him again tomorrow morning. He is fine under the given circumstances.

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