Media Update for January 22, 2011

More Swiss bank whistleblowing; whistleblower arrested:

The story of the bank whistleblower Rudolf Elmer continues to develop. Elmer, who was a long-time employee of the Swiss bank Julius Baer, blew the whistle on tax evasion and other activities facilitated by the bank in 2008. What he did is illegal in Switzerland, which built its banking industry on the kind of secrecy criminals and dictators appreciate. He was charged and fined.

As a whistleblower, Elmer is somewhat flawed. He worked at the bank for 20 years and was aware of the problems, but only came forward after being dismissed from the bank in 2002. Some have argued that his primary motivation is revenge. This isn’t uncommon as at least one of several motivators in whistleblowing, and – as long as the evidence isn’t faked (as Julius Baer claims it is) – it shouldn’t matter.

Of course that doesn’t matter to Swiss authorities, who have rearrested Elmer after he held a press conference in which he handed a CD containing banking information to WikiLeaks this week. He claims it will show more criminal activity.

Another Swiss bank whistleblower, Bradley Birkenfeld, was also charge for his efforts – but was actually jailed by the U.S. In addition, nobody implicated in the massive tax evasion was charged. Instead, the U.S. cut a deal with many of the offenders, and, as recent news reveals, with the Swiss government as well. Apparently, the rich and powerful in the U.S. have quite a bit of pull. Who knew?

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Whistleblower hands Assange offshore bank secrets
Yahoo News, January 17, 2011
Summary: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange vowed to publish secret details of offshore accounts after a Swiss banking whistleblower handed over data Monday on 2,000 purportedly tax-dodging individuals and firms.

Swiss arrest former banker for giving data to WikiLeaks
National Post, January 19, 2011
Summary: A former Swiss banker has been arrested for passing apparently leaked account details to WikiLeaks, hours after he was found guilty of breaching Switzerland’s bank secrecy laws in another case.

WikiLeaks claims US and Swiss struck UBS deal
Eurasia Review, January 20, 2011
Summary: A document revealed by whistleblowing internet site WikiLeaks appears to show that Switzerland struck a deal with the United States in 2009 to help embattled bank UBS.

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