Assange attacks banker's arrest

By Jonathan Lynn,Reuters,In Geneva
Monday 24 January 2011 01:00

The founder of WikiLeaks attacked Switzerland yesterday for arresting a Swiss banker on suspicion of breaching banking secrecy instead of investigating the tax evasion he said he had uncovered.

In an interview in the Swiss weekly Der Sonntag Julian Assange said Switzerland's actions were drawing renewed international attention to its controversial banking practices.

On Friday the Swiss prosecutor's office said former banker Rudolf Elmer would be detained over the weekend. Police took him in to custody on 19 January after he handed computer discs to Mr Assange for WikiLeaks in London earlier in the week. Mr Elmer indicated the CDs contained details of as many as 2,000 offshore bank accounts.

"Mr Elmer is in prison because he has revealed a criminal offshore system of tax evasion in which Swiss banks play a leading role," Mr Assange said. "Instead of investigating these offshore structures and going after the tax evaders, the authorities are going after Mr Elmer."

In a separate case, Mr Elmer was also convicted on 19 January of breaching banking secrecy by passing on private client data to the tax authorities and of threatening employees at his former firm Julius Baer. Mr Elmer has appealed against this verdict.

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