Tax evasion is a whole other story than military records.
Yes, they both deal in secrecy, but the reasoning behind it is vastly different.
I don’t agree with the outing of military records, but the tax shelters of the rich and countries hiding money and doing under handed stuff to start with? That’s not a moral question to me.
Swiss banker vows to hand secrets to WikiLeaks
‘What I am objecting to is not one particular bank, but a system of structures’
LONDON — A Swiss banker whose actions caused a U.S. judge to briefly shut down WikiLeaks three years ago has promised to hand over a trove of banking secrets to the secret-spilling organization on Monday, aU.K. newspaper reported.
Releasing the bank details of 2,000 “high net worth individuals” and companies could reveal huge potential tax evasion, The Observer reported on Sunday.
Both American and British firms and individuals, including about “40 politicians,” will be implicated, Rudolf Elmer, a former employee of Swiss-based Bank Julius Baer, told the newspaper.
Elmer, who pledged to give the information to WikiLeaks at a journalists’ club in London on Monday, has been ordered to appear before a Zurich regional court Jan. 19 to answer charges of coercion and violating Switzerland’s strict banking secrecy laws. If convicted he could be sentenced to up to three years in prison and a fine.
The list of individuals and companies includes multinational conglomerates and hedge funds that are “using secrecy as a screen to hide behind in order to avoided paying tax,” Elmer told the Observer.
The banker told the newspaper he intended to “educate society” with the release.
Those implicated include “business people, politicians, people who have made their living in the arts and multinational conglomerates — from both sides of the Atlantic,” Elmer said, according to the Observer.
Individual names will not be released, the newspaper reported. Similarly, a shorter list of 15 customers the banker gave WikiLeaks in 2008 has not been revealed, it said.
“Well-known pillars of society will hold investment portfolios and may include houses, trading companies, artwork, yachts, jewelry, horses, and so on,” Elmer reportedly added.
“What I am objecting to is not one particular bank, but a system of structures,” he told the newspaper.
“I have worked for major banks other than Julius Baer, and the one thing on which I am absolutely clear is that the banks know, and the big boys know, that money is being secreted away for tax-evasion purposes, and other things such as money-laundering — although these cases involve tax evasion.”
The banker’s lawyer also spoke to the Observer about his client’s motivations.
“My understanding is that my client’s attempts to get the banks to act over various complaints he made came to nothing internally,” Jack Blum, Elmer’s lawyer, told the newspaper. “Neither would the Swiss courts act on his complaints. That’s why he went to WikiLeaks.”
WikiLeaks in spotlight
The case appears to be the first time a WikiLeaks informant will go on trial. It comes as the U.S. government also is trying to prosecute individuals linked to the website for publishing secret military and diplomatic files.
Elmer has said he will admit certain counts of coercion, but insisted he didn’t break Swiss banking secrecy laws because the files he distributed belonged to a Julius Baer subsidiary in the Cayman Islands, where he worked for the bank for eight years.
“This data wasn’t subject to Swiss banking secrecy,” he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Monday.
Swiss financial newspaper Cash was among those that in 2005 received a copy of a CD containing 170 megabytes of data on Julius Baer’s Cayman operations. The files reportedly showed the bank helped its clients set up secret offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes.
Elmer denied giving the files to Cash, but said he did distribute the CD to several media outlets and tax authorities. He later uploaded some of the same information to WikiLeaks, prompting a U.S. judge to shut down the website after Julius Baer claimed Elmer had engaged in “unlawful dissemination of stolen bank records and personal account information of its customers.”
The bank quietly dropped its U.S. lawsuit when the suspension order was lifted two weeks later following complaints from free speech groups and media organizations, including The Associated Press.
Jan Vonder Muehll, a spokesman for Julius Baer, confirmed Monday that the bank is one of the plaintiffs in the case against Elmer next week before the Zurich court. But he said the trial would focus on the earlier release of data to Swiss media, not their publication on WikiLeaks.
The 2008 shutdown saw a surge in support for WikiLeaks, which until then had been virtually unknown to a wider public. The site has managed to stay online almost continuously since, despite growing pressure on its Internet service providers following the recent publication of thousands of leaked U.S. war records and diplomatic cables.
U.S. authorities are currently trying to build a legal case against WikiLeaks and some of its collaborators, claiming the release of the files puts lives at risk.