Thursday, January 20, 2011

Zurich police arrest Rudolf Elmer for leaking bank secrets to Wikileaks

By Jerry Smith Jan 20 2011

Rudolf Elmer, a former private banking executive of Julius Baer Group Ltd., now Wikileaks collaborator, was arrested on Wednesday at 1730 GMT. The ex-banker who on Monday had handed over two CDs of client data to Wikileak’s Julian Assange, was arrested in Zurich yesterday evening at his home.

Prosecutors are investigating possible breaches of banking secrecy laws in the handover of discs on Monday.

The arrest came shortly after Elmer 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.

The economic crime unit of the attorney general's office of the County of Zurich issued an arrest order against Mr. Elmer on suspicion of violation of the banking law. On January 17 Elmer presented Wikileaks founder Julian Assange with two CDs, which he claims contain the names of 2,000 account holders of Julius Baer, his former employer. He also claims the account holders include "high net worth" celebrities, business leaders and lawmakers from the U.S., Britain and Asia.

"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.

Zurich chief prosecutor Peter Pellegrini says Rudolf Elmer was arrested for questioning late Wednesday and will give details on the arrest today.

It is unclear if Elmer has been released or is still being detained.

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.

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