Prosecutors Seek Jail Term for Swiss Banker

Jail time

(Bloomberg) — Swiss prosecutors asked a Zurich court to sentence Rudolf Elmer, a former employee of Julius Baer Group Ltd., to three and a half years in prison for revealing details of client accounts via WikiLeaks.

“He calls himself a whistleblower, thus dressing himself in a cloak of legitimacy,” said prosecutor Peter Giger. “He is a pure traitor who fought the bank again and again under the pretence of humanitarian thought.”

Elmer, 59, is accused of violating the country’s financial secrecy laws in a campaign to raise awareness of the use of Swiss bank accounts for illegal activity including tax evasion. He also allegedly offered bank data to the German government and fabricated a letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel from the Swiss bank, advising her to close an account.

Countries including the U.S., the U.K. and Germany have used testimony from former Swiss bankers or stolen client data to pursue offshore tax dodgers.

Judges heard closing arguments today when the trial resumed for the first time since Elmer collapsed at the opening on Dec. 10, forcing the court to postpone the proceedings. His lawyer said he is still not well but he seemed in better condition. Unlike last month, when he wore a hooded sweatshirt to court, he was dressed in a suit today and exchanged smiles with people in the audience.

The three-judge panel will also hear from Elmer’s lawyer, Ganden Tethong, before delivering a verdict and possible sentence.

Elmer worked at a unit of Julius Baer in the Cayman Islands until 2002. He allegedly uploaded data to WikiLeaks as early as 2007. In January 2011, he gave two compact discs to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at a press conference in London. He said at the start of the trial in December that the discs were empty.

The former banker was detained in January 2011 and held about five months on a judge’s order after prosecutors argued that he might tamper with evidence. He has continued to campaign against an offshore banking network that he says enables wealthy people to hide money from authorities.

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