SWISS banker Rudolf Elmer, one of the first to use WikiLeaks to public private bank documents, goes on trial today charged with breaching banking secrecy and threatening his former employer.
The case today does not concern the publication of the documents on WikiLeaks, but alleged breaches of bank and corporate secrecy in Switzerland.
The former Julius Baer executive, who headed Baer’s office in the Cayman Islands until he was fired in 2002, is facing an eight-month jail term and a 2000 Swiss franc ($2100) fine.
He is being accused of making threats, including a mob threat, to personnel at the bank, as well as seeking cash in return for secret bank data. He also faces charges of breaching bank and corporate secrecy.
Elmer, 55, has meanwhile labelled himself a whistleblower, out to expose a system of offshore tax evasion. Baer, meanwhile, portrays the former employee as waging a personal vendetta after being fired.
On his website swisswhistleblower.com, Elmer explains his actions. “Offshore tax evasion is the biggest theft among societies … in this world,” he writes. He wants to challenge banking secrecy before the European Court of Human Rights and the Swiss justice system, which he faces today.
Swiss lawyer Valentin Landmann who, The Sydney Morning Herald reports today, has made an unsuccessful appeal against the conviction of two other Swiss whistleblowers, said Elmer’s case would focus on his intent.
“A lot could depend on whether the whistleblower is seen as acting altruistically or is motivated by profit,” the lawyer said.
“The court will want to establish a clear insight into the moral intent, which must be proper if people wish to disclose something which they cannot disclose through the normal channels.”