New interview with Rudolf Elmer: "The focus in my case has so far entirely been on incriminating evidence"

Since our last interview with one of the most prominent whistleblowers - Rudolf Elmer - his case has made some significant advances, such as the recognition by the Zurich High Court judges that the prosecution has done a "sloppy job" when investigating the case, and the order to work on it anew. That is not considering the absurdity that consists in investigating the whistleblower and not the alleged criminals exposed by him.

Since the judges' recognition of what was a fact for anyone familiar with the case, no progress has been made. So we thought it was time to have a new interview with Rudolf Elmer, especially since he has recently written a letter to the same judges to insist on having a fair trial.

Read more on it in the following.

    Published on 06-05-2013

First of all, can you update us on your personal (other than the judicial matters) and professional situation since our last interview in 2011?

Rudolf Elmer: Remember I decided to take the bull by the horns four years ago and returned to Switzerland in order to challenge the powerful bodies (the courts, politics and even the government) and make it public in society how a truth-teller is treated if the national interest – the golden calf of bank secrecy – and the dubious interests of the powerful financial oligarchs in Switzerland are at risk? Taking this position has had a tremendous impact not only on my overall situation but, more importantly, on my family’s situation.

My personal situation has changed during the last three years in a positive way, due to the fact that the man in the street now understands that banking secrecy provides not just protection of the privacy of honest people, it also provides more and more a protective legal framework for criminals, and – more importantly – anonymous offshore vehicles. In addition, there is plenty of moral support I receive not only from citizens but also from very well-established people in Swiss society. People who understand that the reputation of Switzerland has been spoiled by greedy managers.

My professional situation is definitely not satisfactory, due to the fact that I have applied unsuccessfully for several positions, for example with Alternative Bank of Switzerland and with NGOs, etc. However, as long as I am involved in legal battles with the courts, no one is willing to hire me or to provide me with real support in the sense of benefiting from my expertise in the global financial industry. Obviously, I provide advice to some clients who have been cheated by the banks, but I have not charged them any fees. Fortunately, the broader society starts to listen to me and understand that I am trying to educate society by disclosing my insider knowledge on how tax havens work and what sort of damage they cause to society. The recent scandals in the financial industry and the ongoing debt crisis, and the fact that major scandals like Enron, Madoff, Sir Allan Standford, AIG, LGCM, Starbucks, Google, etc. were facilitated mainly by structures in secrecy jurisdictions make me a witness of abusive practices but not yet a wanted expert by investigators, governments and regulators.  Therefore, my professional situation is still unsatisfactory, mainly due to the fact that the legal battle has been ongoing for close to eight years now in the state of Zurich and there is still no verdict made. 

What pushed you to write a letter to the judges of the Zurich High Court?

There is a legal requirement that prosecutors and judges have to consider incriminating and also exonerative evidence in order to evaluate the case. The focus in my case has so far entirely been on incriminating evidence and all exonerative evidence has been systematically ignored by the authorities. In other words, there is plenty of room to manipulate the facts, for instance by excluding some important information, turning down witness requests or even using false information to manipulate the outcome of the trial. A fair trial is only possible if all incriminating and exonerative evidence and facts are put on the table. Reviewing the court files I have learned that there are plenty of false statements made and key information excluded to my disadvantage. In order to clarify the situation and to give the judges of the High Court the opportunity to understand the entire case, the letter has become a crucial instrument to use for my defence as a whistleblower. As of today, all whistleblowers in Switzerland have been found guilty in one or the other way.

Whistleblowing is not acknowledged in a secrecy jurisdiction for obvious reasons! The letter might be even more important for the Federal judges of Switzerland or the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and also civil society if I have to appeal a possible negative verdict of the judges of the High Court of Zurich. In simple terms, it is transparency and a fair trial I want and in this regard the well-known Omerta of Swiss courts is going to have a difficult position.

Regarding the ECHR, which turned down your complaint four years after you submitted it, we wrote a letter to them questioning several irregularities in the handling of your complaint. Their response didn’t answer these questions, raising doubt about the independence of the ECHR in matters of banking secrecy and tax evasion. What are your thoughts on this?

My view is that the business model of bank secrecy is driven by strong political and economic interests, not only of individual governments but also of large economic regions, global organisations and large companies such as financial institutions and multi-national conglomerates. Therefore, the Americans protect their secrecy juristictions Delaware, Wyoming, Nevada; the United Kingdom does the same with the Channel Islands and Cayman BVI; India with Mauritius and the Seychelles; China with Hong Kong and Singapore; South America with Belize, Panama and the Caribbean and Europe respectively. The ECHR protects in my case Switzerland, I assume for political and economic reasons. On top of that, there are these global organisations such as the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and the G20 which consist of several member states that are known as tax havens using bank secrecy simply to run their dubious business through. Therefore, the main purpose of secrecy laws is to profit from it and hide abusive business transactions and the real, end-of-the-chain beneficiaries. In my case, the ECHR just did what it felt it had to do and ignored for political reasons the hardship of my family in order to serve the system and protect bank secrecy, which today is known by society to cause so much injustice and pain.

The recent Offshore Leaks revelations, which are still ongoing, are a big blow to the 'tax evasion services' business, and come as a confirmation of what you have been saying all along. How did it make you feel when you first heard about the Offshore Leaks?

I felt very good about it. Not because Offshore Leaks has proven and will continue to prove that I am right in my analysis and my view, but more importantly because investigative journalists are doing what they have to do as the so-called fourth pillar of the state: to inform and educate the man in the street, to put the spotlight on serious problems in society, to nourish the political will to fight abusive practices in any industry and to create the necessary pressure on the politicians to represent the interests of the people in their decision-making and not the interests of small but powerful groups – the financial industry, the multi-national conglomerates and some ultra-high net worth individuals with their offshore structures. I felt it is a big step in the right direction towards fairness, transparency and enlightenment of society. On top of that, the Offshore Leaks provide society with the opportunity to make real progress in the fight against abusive tax havens, respectively the business of those secrecy jurisdictions.

It seems tax evasion has pervaded the political class so much (including in the West) that some members of governments, who push austerity down the throat of their peoples, are themselves at the same time stashing millions in tax havens to avoid taxes as may be the case with the former French Minister of the Budget Jérôme Cahuzac, who is currently under investigation but who chose to publicly "apologise". Your comment on this case?

To be clear, we are not talking about millions, we are talking about billions, and, as I stated some years ago on Wikipedia: "It is a global problem... Offshore tax evasion is the biggest theft among societies and neighbour states (for example, from Germany and France to Switzerland and Luxembourg) in this world”.  It is not only the political class; we also talk about individuals who are greedy in a way that violates even very basic human rights, such as the right to live and the right to food. Part of the political class has become the foot-soldiers of criminals and criminal organisations who abuse the law entirely in their favour and use man-made laws to protect themselves and make abusive practice look legal and legitimate. Fortunately, such cases as Cahuzac or the former footballer Uli Hoeness have become public. However, I still doubt that these well-known people will be held responsible for their actions in the same way as someone who, say, has stolen US$ 1,000 from his employer. The thief would eventually go to prison but I do not think Cahuzac, Uli Hoeness or anyone of those high-profile people who have allegedly committed tax evasion crimes would be found guilty in Europe and would be exposed to a prison sentence! Yes, they have damaged their reputation and might have lost a powerful position but that is still not the same thing the petty thief faces. Eventually, Cahuzac, Uli Hoeness et al might have to pay a huge fine but that will not prevent other people from practising tax evasion because they will know they can get away with only a fine. As a matter of fact, what is needed is jail time for all to stop this tax evasion business!

Since our last interview, have you been harassed by Bank Julius Baer or the Swiss judiciary or government?

There is no direct harassment occurring by those institutions but there is still an ongoing attack on my reputation, and obviously the fact that the case is still pending in the courts is a big burden for me and my family. For instance, my daughter’s computer, her camera and her CDs were confiscated by the police in January 2011 and therefore she, as a 13 year old girl, feels that her basic rights as a Swiss citizen have been badly and consistently violated by the Zurich authorities. Not to mention all the family photos and medical reports confiscated in September 2005 and never returned. This is a way to put pressure on the entire family.

In the last six months you have appeared on talk shows and were mentioned in several articles, including a special report by The Economist on tax evasion. Have you noticed a new interest in the press about this topic, and if yes, what do you think has motivated it?

It is pretty clear the drivers for more public awareness of the topic of tax evasion are the poor handling of the financial crisis, the worsening debt crisis, the ever-increasing compensation packages of top managers and the austerity measures suffered by the man in the street. Things have not changed; actually, they have become worse for the 99% during the last few months. Consider my case as a messenger who makes the systemic corruption more visible to our societies – systemic corruption which destroys democracy and becomes a threat to stability and peace, or simply to basic human rights. It also nourishes fascism and supports the views of extremist groups on both the left and right wing of the political spectrum.

Recently Jean Ziegler, a former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, has published a book in which he denounces what he sees as the systemic and intentional starvation till death of one child every five seconds, because the global food supply could feed double the current number of humans. Do you draw a parallel between this systemic starvation and the systemic corruption that banking secrecy allows and creates?

Jean Ziegler has been a strong supporter of my case since 2005 and we have been on talk shows recently together. I have read the book you refer to twice. My view is that there is a very strong connection between the systemic corruption caused by banking secrecy laws and systemic starvation. There are not only multi-national conglomerates but also financial institutions that benefit from price fluctuations related to water and food. There are striking examples in the hedge fund industry of speculation on food prices, and also within groups such as the world's largest commodity trading companies. All of them use banking secrecy laws to avoid transparency and to hide their dubious business practices.

I’d also like to mention that Jean Ziegler's view and statements increased my motivation because my fight is not really a fight in my own favour, it is a fight to support helpless individuals who do not have a voice in this world. Therefore, it is worthwhile to go to prison again if required to send another strong message to society about the abusive banking secrecy laws.

Julian Assange, whose organisation Wikileaks helped you make your case public in 2008, is still protecting himself in the Ecuadorean embassy in London against a politically motivated Swedish legal case that could end up with him being extradited to the US, where he could face torture or worse. Would you like to convey a message to him?

Yes, he needs patience, time and to continuously alert society to make it clear that there is a tremendous economic and governmental interest to destroy his reputation. This will be an ongoing matter because governments do have unlimited resources and, most importantly, can control the timing and decide when something can or should happen. Therefore, he has to remain a role model for transparency. He needs to continue to fight this uphill battle in order to:

  • find even more support in global society;
  • make his person too important to fail in the face of a prosecution for political reasons;
  • demonstrate that he is a victim of the judicial system and politically powerful groups; and
  • trigger a debate by global experts to discuss the politically motivated Swedish legal case against him on a global level.

The entire uphill battle is about credibility in society and that is key for anyone who challenges the powerful institutions and groups!

What are your plans for the near future?

It is pretty simply to do what I have proposed to Julian Assange in the previous question. For me, that will mean taking part in quality talk shows; to present my views in well-known and quality newspapers; to complete two international documentaries; and to take part in investigative programmes with media outfits such as ARTE TV, ARD, SWR and Deutsche Welle. And also to challenge in court those two conservative Swiss newspapers who tried to destroy my reputation, in order to keep the matter of whistleblowing and abusive Swiss bank secrecy alive in the public domain!


Further reading:
- Rudolf Elmer's book is available in paper and electronic format.
- Rudolf Elmer's website.

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