17 January 2011
A former Swiss banker has passed on data containing account details of 2,000 prominent people to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. The data – which is not yet available on the Wikileaks website – was held on two discs handed over by Rudolf Elmer at a press conference in London. Mr Assange promised full disclosure once the information had been vetted. Mr Elmer is scheduled to go on trial in Switzerland on Wednesday for breaking bank secrecy laws. The banker, who has given data to Wikileaks before, was fired from Swiss bank Julius Baer in 2002. “Evidently disgruntled and frustrated about unfulfilled career aspirations, Mr. Elmer exhibited behaviour that was detrimental and unacceptable for the Bank, which led to termination of the employment relationship,” the bank said in a statement sent to BBC News. “After his demands (including financial compensation) in connection with the dismissal could not be satisfied, Mr. Elmer embarked in 2004 on a personal intimidation campaign and vendetta against Julius Baer,” the statement read.
Although it was not confirmed what activities might be covered by the data Mr Elmer has passed on, the Wikileaks head noted that previous data from Julius Baer provided by Mr Elmer had shed light on tax evasion, the hiding of proceeds of criminal acts and “the protection of assets of those about to fall out of political favour”. The data covers multinationals, financial firms and wealthy individuals from many countries, including the UK, US and Germany, and covers the period 1990-2009, according to a report in Swiss newspaper Der Sonntag. “Once we have looked at the data… there will be full revelation,” said Mr Assange, who is currently on bail and confined to the UK due to an extradition request from Sweden. The Wikileaks founder has been accused of sexual misconduct by two women in Sweden, including having unprotected sex without consent – accusations he denies.
Speaking at the handover event at the Frontline Club, he said the data would be vetted before publication. It was difficult to say how long this would take, he said, although he suggested it could be as little as two weeks. The vetting would depend on the volume of information and how it was delegated, Mr Assange said. Other groups – such as the Tax Justice Network or financial media outlets – might be asked to help in the vetting process, he added. Mr Assange also said some information was likely to be handed over to the authorities – mentioning specifically the UK’s Serious Fraud Office – as was the case with a previous leak concerning Icelandic banks. “I’m against the system. I know how the system works,” said Mr Elmer at the press conference. He said a sophisticated network existed to funnel illicit money into secret offshore accounts. “I’ve been there. I’ve done the job. I know what is the day-to-day business,” he said, explaining why he thought it important to identify himself as the source.
The banker, who worked as Julius Baer’s chief operating officer in the Cayman Islands, said he and his family faced pressure akin to “a fire-breathing dragon with several heads” after he decided to blow the whistle. He said he was put in prison in Switzerland for 30 days for violating Swiss banking rules, and that he was offered money and the withdrawal of charges against him in order to buy his silence. The data included the offshore accounts of about 40 politicians, he said, and covered accounts at three banks, including his former employer. The banker also said that he and his wife had written a letter to German Finance Minister Peer Steinbruck, offering to provide the data for free, but received no response.
Mr Elmer – who runs his own whistle-blowing website – said the data he was providing had been passed to him by various sources that he would keep anonymous. “I am taking the responsibility for this,” he said. He is already facing trial in Switzerland for a previous data leak, and has admitted breaking some laws. However, Mr Elmer claimed he did not breach Swiss banking secrecy rules, as he said all of the information related to the Cayman Islands and therefore lay outside Swiss jurisdiction.
1st December 2010
Is Bank of America WikiLeaks next target? Website boss pledges to release new dossier that will rival Enron scandal
The financial system is today bracing itself for a fresh scandal after WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange revealed the next target of his whistle-blowing website will be a major U.S. bank. While Assange – the man behind the diplomatic dossier which this week rocked the Obama administration – did not say which bank will be exposed or when it will happen, he revealed in a 2009 interview with news website Computerworld that his organisation had obtained large amounts of data from the hard drive of an unnamed Bank of America executive. Although he has yet to provide any details of the dossier, he compared the information contained in the documents with the Enron scandal. His threat will reverberate throughout Wall Street as bankers fear they too will be subjected to damaging revelations. Assange told Forbes magazine: ‘It (the WikiLeaks dossier) will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms, I presume.’
‘You could call it the ecosystem of corruption,’ Assange added. ‘But it’s also all the regular decision-making that turns a blind eye to and supports unethical practices: the oversight that’s not done, the priorities of executives, how they think they’re fulfilling their own self-interest. He promised tens of thousands of documents from a major U.S. financial firm will hit the web sometime in early 2011.’It’s not as big a scale as the Iraq material, but it’s either tens or hundreds of thousands of documents depending on how you define it.’ He would not name the firm but called it a ‘big U.S. bank.’ He claimed the dump would have a similar impact as the Enron scandal. ‘When Enron collapsed, through court processes, thousands and thousands of emails came out that were internal, and it provided a window into how the whole company was managed,’ he explained to Forbes.
‘It was all the little decisions that supported the flagrant violations.’ But he backed away from calling the bank’s actions criminal. ‘All I can say is it’s clear there were unethical practices, but it’s too early to suggest there’s criminality. We have to be careful about applying criminal labels to people until we’re very sure.’ Assange has been criticized for targeting the US government and military with WikiLeaks, but he says he just posts what he gets. ‘People say, why don’t you release more leaks form the Taliban. So I say hey, help us, tell more Taliban dissidents about us,’ he told Forbes. The anti-American criticism comes as the Obama administration opens a criminal investigation into Assange for possible espionage. And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will today be the first American politician to face the possible wrath of world leaders humiliated in secret documents released by the whistleblowing website.