Swiss whistle blower says era of banking secrecy is far from over

Posted on

International Tax Review is carrying an exclusive interview with whistleblower Ruedi Elmer in which he talks about his experiences as chief operating officer for Swiss bank Julius Bär at their Cayman Island office. Elmer was dismissed in 2002 after he challenged the bank's senior management over their failure to enforce normal compliance procedures.

In the interview Elmer talks about his bad treatment by his former employers:

“I was abused as a compliance officer and some criminal clients were not disclosed to me by the local management,” says Elmer. “I was threatened by management and told if I took the bank to court, the bank would ‘finish me’.”

Astonishingly, the Swiss government sided with Julius Bär in trying to suppress Elmer, and to their great discredit, various parts of the Swiss media also aligned with the bank. According to International Tax Review:

"Elmer believes that after the Swiss authorities ignored the abusive practices he had brought to their attention and put him in prison instead, a campaign was run against him in the Swiss media.

“They called me a mentally sick person being full of revenge,” he says."

Elmer's actions have involved him in huge personal costs, not least imprisonment in 2010. He nonetheless seems confident that this has been worthwhile, though talk about the end of banking secrecy remains just that, talk:

"While Pascal Saint-Amans, the incoming OECD head of tax policy and administration, has declared that banking secrecy is over, Elmer believes this will only be true if automatic information exchange becomes the global standard procedure among nations. Elmer does agree that it is important that individual privacy is protected through local data protection laws, but argues this cannot be based on secrecy laws because they are mainly abused by financial institutions, multinationals and the rich who use trusts and companies as vehicles in tax havens."

You can access the full interview Ruedi Elmer gave to International Tax Review's Salman Shaheen here.

NB: Reposted from the Tax Justice Network blog with permission