Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Zurich court orders unsealing of Julius Baer CDs

Swiss bankers have been in a tizzy for quite some time over what to do about Rudolf Elmer, the former Julius Baer Cayman Islands operative who turned whistleblower, and was subsequently jailed and saw his family and daughter hounded. They want to prosecute him for breaking banking secrecy, but they know that to do so they will have to bring out in court a lot of information about Julius Baer clients that the bank would really rather didn't see the light of day. Now, from Switzerland's Neue Z├╝rcher Zeitung, via a rough web translation:
"The Zurich High Court has ordered in an interim decision that three CD-ROM that Elmer is said to have delivered to the tax authorities and to the business newspaper "Cash" must be unsealed by the public prosecutor and analysed."
The CDs are thought to contain details on thousands of potentially tax-evading (and perhaps criminal) customers of Julius Baer, and Elmer made headlines last year when he handed over CDs to Julian Assange in a high profile event in London (though it is not clear whether there was any data on those particular disks.) The Elmer case is clouded by the fact that although the Swiss authorities want to prosecute him, the data comes from the Cayman Islands, and it is not clear if the Swiss secrecy law applies in this case.

This does not at this point appear to be a good outcome for Swiss (and Cayman) financial secrecy, especially if this does lead to the release of copious quantities of data that they had imagined would remain hidden forever. An interesting case to watch, especially if it triggers information requests from foreign judicial authorities chasing criminals at home.

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