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Swiss Whistleblower Provides WikiLeaks With Offshore Banking Documents

A Swiss former banker has provided WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with confidential information on hundreds of offshore bank accounts. The whistleblower, Rudolf Elmer, used to work in the Cayman Islands, where he headed the office of Julius Baer, a Swiss bank. He was fired in 2002, but is apparently intent on exposing the abuses of the offshore banking industry to the rest of the world. At a news conference today, Elmer gave Assange two yellow and blue disks, holding information on more than 2,000 offshore clients.

Julius Baer wasted no time in going on the offensive against Elmer, who, on Wednesday, will go on trial in Switzerland, facing charges of violating bank secrecy. "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 bank said in a statement. "The aim of his activities was and is to discredit Julius Baer as well as clients in the eyes of the public."

WikiLeaks, on the other hand, is staunchly defending the ex-banker, and has promised to offer him its support. Hailing Elmer as a "bona fide whistleblower," Assange asserted that he and WikiLeaks "have some kind of duty to support him" in his looming legal battle. It may be some time, however, before the rest of the world actually sees Elmer's confidential documents. WikiLeaks specified that it will have to vet the data before publishing them, and will do so in conjunction with media organizations and other partners. According to Assange, that process will take at least two weeks to complete.

Elmer, meanwhile, has roundly denied allegations that he's simply looking for vengeance against the company that fired him, and told Reuters that he hopes his actions will encourage other whistleblowers to approach WikiLeaks with their own scoops. He added that the world deserves know about the sector he used to work in, and said WikiLeaks provided him with the ideal opportunity to expose it. "I know how the system works," Elmer explained. "It's damaging... (I want) to educate our society."

Tags: banks, finance, Julian Assange, JulianAssange, politics, rudolf elmer, RudolfElmer, Swiss banks, SwissBanks, switzerland, top, whistleblower, Wikileaks