Ex-banker who released data convicted and given a fine

A former Swiss banker who handed thousands of personal banking files to the Wikileaks Web site has been found guilty of coercion, making a death threat, and breaking Switzerland’s bank secrecy laws.

A judge in Zurich Wednesday handed Rudolf Elmer a fine of about $7,500, suspended for two years, for trying to blackmail his former employer, the Julius Baer bank, and its senior executives. Prosecutors had asked for an eight-month jail sentence.

Elmer was acquitted of a charge of making a bomb threat.

The former banker, who was fired from Julius Baer in 2002, admitted stealing confidential client data and sending anonymous letters to bank officials, threatening to expose the information. He then released the information to Swiss tax authorities and to Wikileaks.

Elmer said he wanted to expose what he called unethical tax-evading practices by the bank — one of Switzerland’s top financial institutions.

Elmer has said he began gathering information on what he termed widespread tax evasion by wealthy businessmen and politicians, while he worked at the offshore Cayman Island trust subsidiary of Julius Baer.

Monday, Elmer met with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and handed over additional disks he said held data from 1990 to 2009 on some 2,000 clients of the bank, stating that Switzerland’s banking secrecy laws are damaging society.

Assange said his Web site will publish the data after verifying it.

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