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Wikileaks and Political Corruption


John Simkin
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I suspect a story that is breaking today will have major consequences for political and business leaders throughout the Western world.

A former Swiss banker, Rudolf Elmer, has passed on data containing account details of 2,000 prominent people to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. The data covers multinationals, financial firms and wealthy individuals from many countries, including the UK, US and Germany, and covers the period 1990-2009.

Mr Assange also said some information was likely to be handed over to the authorities. The data included the offshore accounts of about 40 politicians. Maybe Tony Blair will be one of those exposed. It is believed that the data will shed light on tax evasion and the hiding of proceeds of criminal acts.

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I suspect a story that is breaking today will have major consequences for political and business leaders throughout the Western world.

A former Swiss banker, Rudolf Elmer, has passed on data containing account details of 2,000 prominent people to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. The data covers multinationals, financial firms and wealthy individuals from many countries, including the UK, US and Germany, and covers the period 1990-2009.

Mr Assange also said some information was likely to be handed over to the authorities. The data included the offshore accounts of about 40 politicians. Maybe Tony Blair will be one of those exposed. It is believed that the data will shed light on tax evasion and the hiding of proceeds of criminal acts.

Swiss whistleblower Rudolf Elmer plans to hand over offshore banking secrets of the rich and famous to WikiLeaksHe will disclose the details of 'massive potential tax evasion' before he flies home to stand trial over his actions

Ed Vulliamy The Observer, Sunday 16 January 2011

Rudolf Elmer in Mauritius: “Well-known pillars of society will hold investment portfolios and may include houses, trading companies, artwork, yachts, jewellery, horses, and so on.”

The offshore bank account details of 2,000 "high net worth individuals" and corporations – detailing massive potential tax evasion – will be handed over to the WikiLeaks organisation in London tomorrow by the most important and boldest whistleblower in Swiss banking history, Rudolf Elmer, two days before he goes on trial in his native Switzerland.

British and American individuals and companies are among the offshore clients whose details will be contained on CDs presented to WikiLeaks at the Frontline Club in London. Those involved include, Elmer tells the Observer, "approximately 40 politicians".

Elmer, who after his press conference will return to Switzerland from exile in Mauritius to face trial, is a former chief operating officer in the Cayman Islands and employee of the powerful Julius Baer bank, which accuses him of stealing the information.

He is also – at a time when the activities of banks are a matter of public concern – one of a small band of employees and executives seeking to blow the whistle on what they see as unprofessional, immoral and even potentially criminal activity by powerful international financial institutions.

Along with the City of London and Wall Street, Switzerland is a fortress of banking and financial services, but famously secretive and expert in the concealment of wealth from all over the world for tax evasion and other extra-legal purposes.

Elmer says he is releasing the information "in order to educate society". The list includes "high net worth individuals", multinational conglomerates and financial institutions – hedge funds". They are said to be "using secrecy as a screen to hide behind in order to avoid paying tax". They come from the US, Britain, Germany, Austria and Asia – "from all over".

Clients include "business people, politicians, people who have made their living in the arts and multinational conglomerates – from both sides of the Atlantic". Elmer says: "Well-known pillars of society will hold investment portfolios and may include houses, trading companies, artwork, yachts, jewellery, horses, and so on."

"What I am objecting to is not one particular bank, but a system of structures," he told the Observer. "I have worked for major banks other than Julius Baer, and the one thing on which I am absolutely clear is that the banks know, and the big boys know, that money is being secreted away for tax-evasion purposes, and other things such as money-laundering – although these cases involve tax evasion."

Elmer was held in custody for 30 days in 2005, and is charged with breaking Swiss bank secrecy laws, forging documents and sending threatening messages to two officials at Julius Baer.

Elmer says: "I agree with privacy in banking for the person in the street, and legitimate activity, but in these instances privacy is being abused so that big people can get big banking organisations to service them. The normal, hard-working taxpayer is being abused also.

"Once you become part of senior management," he says, "and gain international experience, as I did, then you are part of the inner circle – and things become much clearer. You are part of the plot. You know what the real products and service are, and why they are so expensive. It should be no surprise that the main product is secrecy … Crimes are committed and lies spread in order to protect this secrecy."

The names on the CDs will not be made public, just as a much shorter list of 15 clients that Elmer handed to WikiLeaks in 2008 has remained hitherto undisclosed by the organisation headed by Julian Assange, currently on bail over alleged sex offences in Sweden, and under investigation in the US for the dissemination of thousands of state department documents.

Elmer has been hounded by the Swiss authorities and media since electing to become a whistleblower, and his health and career have suffered.

"My understanding is that my client's attempts to get the banks to act over various complaints he made came to nothing internally," says Elmer's lawyer, Jack Blum, one of America's leading experts in tracking offshore money. "Neither would the Swiss courts act on his complaints. That's why he went to WikiLeaks."

That first crop of documents was scrutinised by the Guardian newspaper in 2009, which found "details of numerous trusts in which wealthy people have placed capital. This allows them lawfully to avoid paying tax on profits, because legally it belongs to the trust … The trust itself pays no tax, as a Cayman resident", although "the trustees can distribute money to the trust's beneficiaries".

Now, Blum says, "Elmer is being tried for violating Swiss banking secrecy law even though the data is from the Cayman Islands. This is bold extraterritorial nonsense. Swiss secrecy law should apply to Swiss banks in Switzerland, not a Swiss subsidiary in the Cayman Islands."

Julius Baer has denied all wrongdoing, and rejects Elmer's allegations. It has said that Elmer "altered" documents in order to "create a distorted fact pattern".

The bank issued a statement on Friday saying: "The aim of [Elmer's] activities was, and is, to discredit Julius Baer as well as clients in the eyes of the public. With this goal in mind, Mr Elmer spread baseless accusations and passed on unlawfully acquired, respectively retained, documents to the media, and later also to WikiLeaks. To back up his campaign, he also used falsified documents."

The bank also accuses Elmer of threatening colleagues.

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I suspect a story that is breaking today will have major consequences for political and business leaders throughout the Western world.

A former Swiss banker, Rudolf Elmer, has passed on data containing account details of 2,000 prominent people to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. The data covers multinationals, financial firms and wealthy individuals from many countries, including the UK, US and Germany, and covers the period 1990-2009.

Mr Assange also said some information was likely to be handed over to the authorities. The data included the offshore accounts of about 40 politicians. Maybe Tony Blair will be one of those exposed. It is believed that the data will shed light on tax evasion and the hiding of proceeds of criminal acts.

Swiss whistleblower Rudolf Elmer plans to hand over offshore banking secrets of the rich and famous to WikiLeaksHe will disclose the details of 'massive potential tax evasion' before he flies home to stand trial over his actions

Ed Vulliamy The Observer, Sunday 16 January 2011

Rudolf Elmer in Mauritius: “Well-known pillars of society will hold investment portfolios and may include houses, trading companies, artwork, yachts, jewellery, horses, and so on.”

The offshore bank account details of 2,000 "high net worth individuals" and corporations – detailing massive potential tax evasion – will be handed over to the WikiLeaks organisation in London tomorrow by the most important and boldest whistleblower in Swiss banking history, Rudolf Elmer, two days before he goes on trial in his native Switzerland.

British and American individuals and companies are among the offshore clients whose details will be contained on CDs presented to WikiLeaks at the Frontline Club in London. Those involved include, Elmer tells the Observer, "approximately 40 politicians".

Elmer, who after his press conference will return to Switzerland from exile in Mauritius to face trial, is a former chief operating officer in the Cayman Islands and employee of the powerful Julius Baer bank, which accuses him of stealing the information.

He is also – at a time when the activities of banks are a matter of public concern – one of a small band of employees and executives seeking to blow the whistle on what they see as unprofessional, immoral and even potentially criminal activity by powerful international financial institutions.

Along with the City of London and Wall Street, Switzerland is a fortress of banking and financial services, but famously secretive and expert in the concealment of wealth from all over the world for tax evasion and other extra-legal purposes.

Elmer says he is releasing the information "in order to educate society". The list includes "high net worth individuals", multinational conglomerates and financial institutions – hedge funds". They are said to be "using secrecy as a screen to hide behind in order to avoid paying tax". They come from the US, Britain, Germany, Austria and Asia – "from all over".

Clients include "business people, politicians, people who have made their living in the arts and multinational conglomerates – from both sides of the Atlantic". Elmer says: "Well-known pillars of society will hold investment portfolios and may include houses, trading companies, artwork, yachts, jewellery, horses, and so on."

"What I am objecting to is not one particular bank, but a system of structures," he told the Observer. "I have worked for major banks other than Julius Baer, and the one thing on which I am absolutely clear is that the banks know, and the big boys know, that money is being secreted away for tax-evasion purposes, and other things such as money-laundering – although these cases involve tax evasion."

Elmer was held in custody for 30 days in 2005, and is charged with breaking Swiss bank secrecy laws, forging documents and sending threatening messages to two officials at Julius Baer.

Elmer says: "I agree with privacy in banking for the person in the street, and legitimate activity, but in these instances privacy is being abused so that big people can get big banking organisations to service them. The normal, hard-working taxpayer is being abused also.

"Once you become part of senior management," he says, "and gain international experience, as I did, then you are part of the inner circle – and things become much clearer. You are part of the plot. You know what the real products and service are, and why they are so expensive. It should be no surprise that the main product is secrecy … Crimes are committed and lies spread in order to protect this secrecy."

The names on the CDs will not be made public, just as a much shorter list of 15 clients that Elmer handed to WikiLeaks in 2008 has remained hitherto undisclosed by the organisation headed by Julian Assange, currently on bail over alleged sex offences in Sweden, and under investigation in the US for the dissemination of thousands of state department documents.

Elmer has been hounded by the Swiss authorities and media since electing to become a whistleblower, and his health and career have suffered.

"My understanding is that my client's attempts to get the banks to act over various complaints he made came to nothing internally," says Elmer's lawyer, Jack Blum, one of America's leading experts in tracking offshore money. "Neither would the Swiss courts act on his complaints. That's why he went to WikiLeaks."

That first crop of documents was scrutinised by the Guardian newspaper in 2009, which found "details of numerous trusts in which wealthy people have placed capital. This allows them lawfully to avoid paying tax on profits, because legally it belongs to the trust … The trust itself pays no tax, as a Cayman resident", although "the trustees can distribute money to the trust's beneficiaries".

Now, Blum says, "Elmer is being tried for violating Swiss banking secrecy law even though the data is from the Cayman Islands. This is bold extraterritorial nonsense. Swiss secrecy law should apply to Swiss banks in Switzerland, not a Swiss subsidiary in the Cayman Islands."

Julius Baer has denied all wrongdoing, and rejects Elmer's allegations. It has said that Elmer "altered" documents in order to "create a distorted fact pattern".

The bank issued a statement on Friday saying: "The aim of [Elmer's] activities was, and is, to discredit Julius Baer as well as clients in the eyes of the public. With this goal in mind, Mr Elmer spread baseless accusations and passed on unlawfully acquired, respectively retained, documents to the media, and later also to WikiLeaks. To back up his campaign, he also used falsified documents."

The bank also accuses Elmer of threatening colleagues.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2011/jan/17/wikileaks-latest-developments

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What Might Be Lurking in WikiLeaks' "Thermonuclear Device"?

January 18, 2011

http://legalschnauzer.blogspot.com/2011/01/what-might-be-lurking-in-wikileaks.html

It appears increasingly likely that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will be extradited to Sweden and turned over to the United States for criminal charges of a dubious nature.

That brings heightened urgency to this question: What is contained in the "thermonuclear device" of government files that WikiLeaks has vowed to release if harm comes to the organization or its leader?

Little is known about the files that WikiLeaks possesses but has not released, so we can only make an educated guess. But a source tells Legal Schnauzer that the files could include information about Bush-era crimes, including political prosecutions, stolen elections, U.S. attorney firings, and more.

One hint came when Assange said in a recent interview that he has "insurance files" on Rupert Murdoch and his global media company, News Corporation. But we've seen signs that WikiLeaks' "big bomb" goes way beyond anything involving Rupert Murdoch.

The strongest insight we've seen came in a recent Time magazine profile of Assange in its Person of the Year issue. WikiLeaks, it turns out, obtained sensitive information by piggybacking on the work of Chinese hackers. Time explains:

The worst--or best, in the view of advocates for radical transparency--could be yet to come. John Young, a New York City architect who left the WikiLeaks steering committee after clashing with Assange, says the group members are storing "a lot more information underground than they are publishing on the surface." Some of it comes from a hacker-on-hacker sting in 2006, when data jockeys at WikiLeaks detected what they believed to be a large-scale intelligence operation to steal data from computers around the world. The intruders were using TOR, an anonymous browsing technology invented by the U.S. Navy, to tunnel into their targets and extract information. The WikiLeaks team piggybacked on the operation, recording the data stream in real time as the intruders stole it.

In an encrypted e-mail dated Jan. 7, 2007, decrypted and made available to TIME by its recipient, one of the participants boasted, "Hackers monitor chinese and other intel as they burrow into their targets, when they pull, so do we. Inxhaustible supply of material?... We have all of pre 2005 afghanistan. Almost all of india fed. Half a dozen foreign ministries. Dozens of political parties and consulates, worldbank, apec, UN sections, trade groups."

The theft scandalized some WikiLeaks insiders, and Assange has held back from publishing most of its fruits. But shortly before his arrest in London, he issued a veiled threat that "comes straight out of cypherpunk fiction," according to Christopher Soghoian, a well-known security researcher.

Last July, it turns out, as controversy erupted over its release of the Afghanistan war logs, WikiLeaks had posted, without explanation, a 1.4-gigabyte encrypted file called "insurance.aes256." Some 100,000 people around the world have downloaded it. On Dec. 3, Assange said in an online chat with readers of the Guardian newspaper that the file contains the entire diplomatic archive, most of which has yet to be released, and additional "significant material from the U.S. and other countries." He added, "If something happens to us, the key parts will be released automatically."

From a domestic standpoint, the most intriguing information might be the reference to "political parties" and "trade groups." Could that mean the Republican Party during the George W. Bush years? Could that be one reason GOP guru Karl Rove seems particularly determined to see that Assange is "hunted down"? Could "trade groups" include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been a powerful force in the GOP's electoral strategies.

Our source finds it particularly interesting that the WikiLeaks files were obtained on the backs of Chinese hackers. This brings to mind SMARTech, the Chattanooga-based company whose servers hosted 2004 presidential-election results for Ohio, plus Bush-administration e-mails that went outside of official White House channels.

According to several published reports, SMARTech CEO Jeff Averbeck has ties to Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and possibly has routed information through servers at those federal facilities. Says our source:

If I was working in Chinese intelligence, I think Oak Ridge Labs would be an inviting target for hacking. If SMARTech has used those lines, the Chinese might have obtained all kinds of information about stolen U.S. elections. I would want the NASA and TVA servers, as well, and who knows what the Chinese might have found there? With information about stolen elections and more, the Chinese could blackmail the U.S. government for about a century. I suspect Assange has stuff we haven't even thought of.

The next court date in Assange's extradition battle is February 7. Meanwhile, we can ponder these questions: Is it possible that WikiLeaks will force the U.S. government into rediscovering its conscience? Wouldn't it be ironic if we wind up having to thank Chinese hackers for helping to get our democracy back on track, to essentially save us from the criminality of the Bush years?

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