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Convicted whistleblower banker arrested on new charges

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-01-20

Former Swiss banker Rudolf Elmer has been arrested on new charges just hours after a court found him guilty of breaching bank secrecy law. Elmer has admitted sending private client data to whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

REUTERS - Police will question former banker Rudolf Elmer on Thursday over possible fresh breaches of Swiss bank law for giving data to WikiLeaks this week, a day after he was found guilty of violating bank secrecy.

Authorities have 48 hours from Elmer's arrest to decide whether they have grounds to hold him in custody for longer, state prosecutor Peter Pellegrini said on Thursday.

"Mr Elmer was arrested yesterday and will be questioned by us today," Pellegrini said.

Elmer helped bring WikiLeaks to prominence three years ago when he used it to publish secret client details. On Monday he handed over new data to the website, which has annoyed U.S. authorities by releasing thousands of confidential State Department cables.

Elmer was taken into custody by police on Wednesday evening, hours after he was convicted of breaching strict banking secrecy by passing on private client data and of threatening employees at his former firm Julius Baer.

A decision on whether to detain Elmer further would depend on whether the state had a case against him and whether there was a risk of him taking flight, Pellegrini said.

Elmer was held for a month in 2005 when he was arrested on the charges that led to Wednesday's prosecution -- which did not concern WikiLeaks. His wife and daughter live near Zurich.

A source who spoke to Elmer's wife Heidi after his arrest said she reported that police arrived at their residence in a village outside Zurich with a search warrant and a warrant for Elmer's arrest.

Lucius Blattner, whose firm represented Elmer in Wednesday's proceedings, said his firm would again represent the former banker in the case of further legal action.

On Wednesday, the court sentenced Elmer to a fine of 7,200 Swiss francs ($7,505), suspended for two years, without giving reasons, which will be presented in a written judgement. The defence will decide whether to appeal within 10 days.

Switzerland's bank secrecy helped it build a $2-trillion wealth management industry but the laws have come under intense global attack in recent years, with neighbouring Germany buying secret data from informants to track down tax evaders.
 

Date created : 2011-01-19

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