That headline should have read Tax Evasion DATA.
Does anyone know how to edit the titles of our threads?
I'm looking forward to seeing this information.
Ex-Swiss Banker Gives Data to WikiLeaks
By RAVI SOMAIYA and JULIA WERDIGIER
Published: January 17, 2011
LONDON — A former Swiss bank executive said on Monday that he had given the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, details of more than 2,000 prominent individuals and companies that he contends engaged in tax evasion and other possible criminal activity.
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The WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange received CDs containing data on offshore bank account holders from former Swiss private banker Rudolf Elmer Monday in London.
Rudolf M. Elmer, the former head of the Cayman Islands office of the prominent Swiss bank Julius Baer, refused to identify any of the individuals or companies, but told reporters at a press conference that about 40 politicians and “pillars of society” worldwide are among them.
He told The Observer newspaper over the weekend that those named in the documents come from “the U.S., Britain, Germany, Austria and Asia — from all over,” and include “business people, politicians, people who have made their living in the arts and multinational conglomerates — from both sides of the Atlantic.”
Mr. Assange said that WikiLeaks would verify and release the information, including the names, in as little as two weeks. He suggested possible partnerships with financial news organizations and said he would consider turning the information over to Britain’s Serious Fraud Office, a government agency that investigates financial corruption.
Mr. Elmer said he had turned to WikiLeaks to educate society about what he considers an unfair system designed to serve the rich and aid money launderers after his offers to provide the data to universities and governments were spurned and, in his opinion, the Swiss media failed to cover the substance of his allegations. “The man in the street needs to know how this system works,” he said, referring to the offshore trusts that many “high net worth individuals” across the world use to evade taxes.
His former employers released a statement on Friday denying all wrongdoing and suggesting that Mr. Elmer’s aim was to “discredit Julius Baer as well as clients in the eyes of the public.” It accused him of using falsified documents and spreading “baseless accusations” and passing on “unlawfully acquired, respectively retained, documents to the media, and later also to WikiLeaks.”
On Monday, Mr. Elmer declined say how he had obtained the documents, which were on two CDs. He faces trial in Switzerland on Wednesday on charges of stealing the information from the bank. He was held for 30 days in 2005 over allegations that he violated Swiss banking secrecy laws, falsified documents and sent threatening messages to two people at the bank.
WikiLeaks and Bank Julius Baer previously clashed in early 2008 when the anti-secrecy organization published hundreds of documents pertaining to its offshore activities. On that occasion, it did not identify the 15 individuals concerned. But the bank succeeded, briefly, in gaining a court order to shut down the WikiLeaks.org Web site anyway. The injunction was subsequently overturned and the case was dropped.
The offshore banking industry has come under increasing pressure from whistle-blowers like Mr. Elmer over the last two years. In 2009, Bradley Birkenfeld, a former private banker for UBS, was sentenced to more than three years in prison after refusing to admit his own role in the Swiss bank’s efforts to help American clients evade taxes.
Prosecutors did, however, credit Mr. Birkenfeld for helping to disclose some illegal tactics in the industry. As a result of Mr. Birkenfeld’s disclosures, UBS agreed to turn over details of several thousand client accounts to the Internal Revenue Service as part of a legal settlement. UBS agreed to pay a $780 million fine and admitted criminal wrongdoing.
In London on Monday, Mr. Assange said that financial institutions “operate outside the rule of law” because of their economic power. WikiLeaks itself had, he said, been “economically censored” by companies like Visa and MasterCard, which stopped processing donations to it late last year in response to its release of hundreds of thousands of classified United States documents on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and thousands of State Department cables.
WikiLeaks has also said it would release information from an American bank, thought to be the contents of a Bank of America executive’s hard drive, early this year. But, Mr. Assange said, the site is not fully “open for public business” owing to the weight of the existing leaks it is struggling to process.
He would not comment on continuing proceedings to extradite him from Britain to Sweden to face allegations of sexual wrongdoing brought by two women in Stockholm last summer. He will next appear in a London court on Feb. 7 and 8.
The United States is also widely thought to be conducting an investigation into Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks, in connection with the release of the classified United States government and military information.