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Zurich court gives hope to whistleblower

The Zurich high court has told the cantonal prosecutor it does not have sufficient information to judge an appeal lodged by bank whistle-blower Rudolf Elmer.

In January a lower court gave Elmer a suspended fine of SFr7,200 ($7,832) for handing confidential data on clients of the private Julius Bär bank to the tax authorities, and for threatening some of his former colleagues after he was sacked in 2002.

 Elmer, who worked for the bank in the Cayman Islands, maintains that when he tried to bring evidence of the abuse of offshore accounts to the attention of his bosses, he had been ignored.

However, the lower court judge did not believe his claims that he acted out of altruism in taking his evidence to the authorities. The judge also accepted that Elmer was responsible for the threats of violence received by bank employees.

Thursday’s high court ruling puts Julius Bär in an awkward situation.

Only the bank and Elmer himself know exactly what the stolen data contains, and the bank has refused to give details.

The court said that without this information it cannot pronounce on the case, since if the data is that of Cayman Island customers, they are not covered by Swiss banking secrecy.

Julius Bär will therefore have to reveal the confidential details if it wants to prevent Elmer’s appeal from being accepted. Otherwise the court will presume that the clients are not Swiss, and therefore not protected.

The court also ordered a new investigation into the threatening mails allegedly sent by Elmer.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR