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Top Swiss court acquits banking whistleblower Rudolf Elmer

Switzerland’s Federal High Court today confirmed a lower court ruling, finding that Rudolf Elmer did not violate Swiss banking secrecy laws when he revealed information about offshore banking tax avoidance schemes.

Breaking bank secrecy is a criminal matter in Switzerland that carries a penalty of up to three years in jail.

[Cross-posted from Whistleblowing Today.]

The high court rejected Zurich prosecutors’ appeal and proposed jail sentence, but left standing a suspended sentence for “forging documents and threatening Julius Baer following his dismissal,” charges Elmer has denied.

From 1994 until dismissal in 2002, Elmer was the chief operating officer of Julius Baer Bank and Trust in Grand Cayman. He subsequently provided information to foreign tax authorities and Wikileaks.

In his 14-year battle with authorities, Elmer was jailed for more than a year, much of that in solitary confinement, and had to undergo two forensic psychological evaluations.

Elements of the dispute between Mr. Elmer and Julius Baer resemble a spy thriller. He said that Julius Baer had him followed by private investigators in Zurich and that superiors told him “it might be a good idea to go for a deep dive in the sea” — assertions that the bank denies.

“Reporting a crime in Switzerland is a crime,” Elmer says, and leads to “social, professional, and financial death.

His story is told in greater detail in a German film and on his personal website, at https://www.rudolfelmer.com/ .