17 Jan 2011

WikiLeaks to publish Swiss offshore bank documents

A former Swiss banker tells Channel 4 News that providing data on offshore bank accounts to WikiLeaks might put pressure on tax authorities, but he refuses to name names.

Rudolf Elmer, who used to head the Cayman Islands office of Julius Baer bank until he was sacked in 2002, gave the information, contained on two CDs, to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Although he has not named those involved, he claims the CD contains information about 40 politicians, business people, and “people who have made their living in the arts” and were from Britain, America, Germany, Austria, Asia and “all over”.

Mr Elmer will go on trial in Switzerland on Wednesday for breaching bank secrecy.

He and Jack Blum, a former US Congressional investigator and Washington lawyer who represents whistleblowers, appeared at a news conference at the Frontline club in London this morning, where they told reporters that the discs contained names and account information of around 2,000 clients who had money offshore. offshore.

Mr Elmer said the data came from at least three financial institutions, including Julius Baer, covered the period from 1990 to 2009, and included documents leaked to him from other whistleblowers.

“WikiLeaks may be the only means to get my message out to society.” Rudolf Elmer

Mr Elmer said that he hoped his appearance at the news conference would both call attention to offshore financial abuses and promote WikiLeaks as a mechanism for other whistleblowers to air their stories.

However, neither Mr Elmer nor his lawyer released any specific details about the identities of the individuals named in the material Elmer handed over to Assange.

The lack of information left many journalists at the news conference frustrated.

A large portion of the material has already been handed over to government authorities in countries where the account holders are believed to reside.

Elmer said that the data involved multimillionaires, international companies and hedge funds from countries including the United States, Germany and Britain.

“The main thing is educating society about offshore abuses and how they work,” he said.

“I believe in the system of WikiLeaks,” Elmer continued.

“Such a thing has to exist. WikiLeaks was my last hope. I couldn’t get my message out. WikiLeaks may be the only means to get my message out to society. I would like to help get WikiLeaks back on track again.”

When asked whether the files merely contained proof of legal depositing of money offshore or whether they pointed to criminal activities, Mr Elmer said: “It’s not up to me to make any decision on allegations. I think suspicion is enough.”

Mr Elmer argued that the case brought against him is unfair because the material that he allegedly leaked – including some material on alleged offshore tax evasion abuses already published by WikiLeaks – originated in the Cayman Islands, where Swiss authorities arguably lack jurisdiction.

Mr Assange confirmed that WikiLeaks would publish the material, but once staff had analysed the material.

“Yes, I presume once we’ve looked at the data there will be full revelation,” he said.

“(But it) depends on how much stuff there is. if we can delegate them out appropriately, it could be a couple of weeks.”

WikiLeaks: banking data next to be exposed