Thursday, January 25, 2018

WikiLeaks' Julian Assange Is Accused of Endangering Whistleblowers

An attorney representing bank whistleblower Rudolf Elmer claims Assange threw his client ‘under the bus for the benefit of his own ego’

Rudolf Elmer is a former bank executive who oversaw the Cayman Islands subsidiary of private Swiss lender Julius Baer from 1994 until 2002, when he was fired by the bank. Subsequently, Elmer allegedly provided to Swiss authorities offshore-bank records from the Cayman Islands subsidiary that detailed suspicious activities he believed were evidence of money laundering and tax evasion.

When those disclosures failed to prompt the authorities to act, he went to the Swiss media with his story, and still there was no action — other than Elmer’s arrest in 2005 on charges that he violated Swiss bank-secrecy laws and attempted to coerce Julius Baer officials by threatening to release details on the Cayman Islands offshore accounts. Elmer spent 30 days in jail at that time, prior to being released with the charges still pending.

In 2008, hoping to draw international attention to his still-pending legal case and the abuses of the offshore-banking system, Elmer decided to release a small portion of the Julius Baer bank data to the public via WikiLeaks. That resulted in Julius Baer filing a motion in a US court asking a judge to issue an injunction to force WikiLeaks to shut down its US-hosted website.

The judge initially granted the bank’s request, which generated a storm of media coverage and outrage from free-speech and civil-rights groups. In the wake of that blowback, the US judge reconsidered his initial ruling and reversed the injunction against WikiLeaks.

“Of course, as soon as that case was filed [against WikiLeaks], a thousand other websites copied the [Cayman Island bank] documents [and] there was no way the judge could issue an order that would have any effect,” said Jack Blum, a former US Senate investigator, money laundering expert and Elmer’s US attorney. “And WikiLeaks immediately became a page-one story, and WikiLeaks, which no one had ever heard of before that, suddenly became celebrated. So ironically Ruedi [Elmer] was guy who put [WikiLeaks and] Assange on the map.”

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