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Landmark verdict ‘Whistleblower’ Rudolf Elmer given suspended sentence

Rudolf Elmer on his way to court in June


Former Swiss banker Rudolf Elmer has been sentenced to a 14-month suspended jail term after being found guilty of forgery and making threats in a long-running legal battle involving his former employer Julius Bär.

However, the Zurich court on Tuesday turned down prosecution demands to convict the 60-year-old for breaching banking secrecy laws. 

Elmer’s defence team argued that he should not have to answer such charges as he was an employee of a Julius Bär subsidiary based in the Cayman Islands – outside the jurisdiction of Swiss banking secrecy laws.

Elmer's prison sentence was suspended for three years. He was found guilty of making threats against Julius Bär after being fired in 2002. His trial was held in June with the judge recording his verdict on Tuesday after deliberation.

The trial heard an appeal from Swiss prosecutors who argued that Elmer should have been convicted of more offences during a 2011 court case.

Swiss news agency SDA quoted the judge as saying during the proceedings that Elmer is "not a whistleblower, but an ordinary criminal".

The judge also cited a psychiatric report attesting that Elmer has a narcissistic disorder, and that rather than seeking to expose misconduct by his former employer, he simply "saw himself as a victim of an environment that did not honour him appropriately." 

Elmer later confirmed a report in the SonntagsZeitung on August 28 that he would appeal to the Federal Supreme Court in Lausanne.

History of trials

Elmer has been in the spotlight for eight years after being suspected of handing sensitive bank client data to whistleblower website Wikileaks. He was also accused of attempting to hand over data to various tax authorities and media outlets.

Elmer has spent the last few years publicly accusing Julius Bär of deliberately facilitating tax evasion. His sometimes provocative actions have divided opinion: supporters have hailed him as a hero of ordinary tax payers by exposing a corrupt banking system, while critics have accused him of narcissism and being delusional.

The Swiss citizen is no stranger to legal proceedings, having been arrested several times and having faced two previous trials. Days before his first trial in 2011, Elmer called a press conference in London to hand over two CDs to Wikileaks boss Julian Assange, claiming they contained bank data.

He was arrested straight after his 2011 trial (which saw him fined for threatening Julius Bär employees) and faced court again in 2015, accused of breaking banking secrecy rules in connection with the Wikileaks publicity stunt. Although Elmer was fined in that appearance, he was cleared of handing Wikileaks data as it could not be proved what material was contained on the CDs.

Whistleblower or narcissist: what's your view of Rudolf Elmer?

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