Swiss court clears ex-banker who gave secrets to WikiLeaks

FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011 file photo, Swiss banker Rudolf Elmer leaves a Zurich District Court where he faced charges of coercion and breaking Switzerlands strict bank secrecy laws, in Zurich, Switzerland. Switzerlands high court has The Associated Press
FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011 file photo, Swiss banker Rudolf Elmer leaves a Zurich District Court where he faced charges of coercion and breaking Switzerland's strict bank secrecy laws, in Zurich, Switzerland. Switzerland's high court has upheld the acquittal of a former private banker who handed over confidential client information to WikiLeaks, ruling he wasn't bound by the country's strict banking secrecy laws at the time. The Federal Tribunal validated a ruling by Zurich's regional supreme court in the case of Rudolf Elmer, a former top accountant at a Cayman Islands affiliate of Swiss bank Julius Baer who was fired in 2002. (AP Photo/Keystone, Walter Bieri)

Switzerland's high court has upheld the acquittal of a former bank accountant who handed over confidential client information to WikiLeaks, ruling Wednesday he wasn't bound by the country's strict banking secrecy laws at the time.

The Federal Tribunal validated a ruling by Zurich's regional supreme court in the case of Rudolf Elmer, a former top accountant at a Cayman Islands affiliate of Swiss bank Julius Baer who was fired in 2002.

The tribunal agreed that because Elmer had been an employee of the affiliate, he wasn't bound by Swiss banking secrecy laws when he gave the information to WikiLeaks in 2008. That year, a U.S. judge shut WikiLeaks down for two weeks after a complaint filed by Julius Baer about Elmer.

The secret-busting group went public that it had obtained the information in 2011: Elmer gave two data disks to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in London in January that year. Elmer said then that the disks contained details of rich individuals who used offshore accounts to avoid paying tax.

The case increased pressure on Switzerland to relax its strict banking secrecy rules.

The tribunal upheld Elmer's convictions on other charges, including attempted coercion and forgery, which involved a document purporting to be a letter from the bank to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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