Rudolf Elmer, a former chief operating officer with Julius Baer in the Cayman Islands who allegedly handed internal bank data on tax evaders to WikiLeaks, international tax authorities and the media, has been given a 14-month suspended jail sentence for threatening his former employer and forgery.
However, a Swiss court in Zurich rejected prosecution demands to convict the 60-year-old for violating Swiss banking secrecy laws. The upper court also refused to ban Mr. Elmer from taking up employment in the banking industry. He currently works as an asset manager.
Mr. Elmer was sacked in 2002 after having worked for eight years with Julius Baer in the Cayman Islands. In 2008, the banker passed on information to the WikiLeaks website that he claimed revealed his former employer set up trusts and other structures to help clients evade taxes through offshore accounts.
The appeals court on Tuesday found him guilty of having threatened the bank by email and fax after he was fired. But the court dismissed several counts alleging the breach of bank secrecy laws.
In a first trial in 2011, a lower level court in Zurich found Mr. Elmer guilty of violating Swiss banking secrecy and denied the defendant’s claim that Swiss courts had no jurisdiction because the documents he leaked referred to accounts in Cayman.
On appeal Mr. Elmer, a certified auditor, argued that he was not employed by Julius Baer in Switzerland but by an independent Julius Baer entity in the Cayman Islands.
Swiss media reported in July that the prosecution had not disclosed important evidence which would have helped Mr. Elmer’s defense. This included the fact that he did not have a Swiss employment contract and as a result was not bound by Swiss law. According to the prosecutor, Mr. Elmer’s Cayman employment contract had been accidentally omitted from court documents.
The June 2016 appeal trial was initiated by Swiss prosecutors who argued that Elmer should have been convicted of more offenses and handed a harsher sentence in previous court cases.
Days before his first conviction in 2011, Mr. Elmer was re-arrested after he handed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange two CDs that reputedly contained details of up to 2,000 tax cheats, including 40 politicians and various celebrities.
In 2015, a lower court gave Elmer a suspended fine of less than $20,000 for leaking confidential client data to WikiLeaks in 2008. He was also convicted of forging a letter from Julius Baer that implied German Chancellor Angela Merkel had a Swiss bank account.
At the same time, the court found insufficient evidence that the discs he handed to WikiLeaks at a press conference in London in 2011 did contain confidential client data. The court also cleared Mr. Elmer on a charge of offering to reveal confidential bank data to the German government in a letter to the German finance minister.