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Ex-Swiss Banker Charged With Giving Data to WikiLeaks

Former Julius Baer Group Banker Rudolf Elmer
Former Julius Baer Group banker Rudolf Elmer is in a Zurich prison while the city’s prosecutors investigate whether he broke banking secrecy laws. Photographer: Gianluca Colla/Bloomberg

Swiss prosecutors charged a former Julius Baer Group Ltd. employee with revealing details of client accounts via WikiLeaks in violation of the country’s bank secrecy laws.

Rudolf Elmer, who worked in the Cayman Islands branch of the Zurich-based bank, was also charged today with offering bank data to the German finance ministry and with forging a document concerning his former employer, the prosecutors’ office in Zurich said in a emailed statement.

The alleged violations occurred between 2007 and 2011, after Elmer left the bank in 2002.

“Elmer sees himself as a whistle-blower,” prosecutor Peter Giger said by telephone. “He has a message he wants to bring across. I am convinced he broke the law in trying to do that.”

Countries including the U.S. and Germany have used testimony from former Swiss bankers or stolen client data to pursue crackdowns on tax evasion. Swiss laws threaten bank employees with a jail term if they divulge client information.

Another former Julius Baer employee was sentenced to three years in prison last August for breaking the laws in a separate case.

A spokesman for the bank who asked not to be identified declined to comment on the charges against Elmer. The prosecutors’ office said Elmer denies the charges.

A German finance ministry official who asked not to be identified said he could not comment on the case.

Elmer was detained in January 2011 and held for about five months on a judge’s order after prosecutors argued that he might tamper with material important to their investigation, Giger said. He said Elmer remains free as the case continues.

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