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The United States imprisoned whistleblower Brad Birkenfeld for giving them voluminous data on UBS, Switzerland's largest bank, which (the U.S. admits) shattered centuries of Swiss bank secrecy.  In contrast, Germany is planning to buy insider data from an individual who has offered to sell information on 1,300 holders of Swiss bank accounts.  http://www.bloomberg.com/... This is quite a contrast, but it shows in stark relief where each country's priorities are.  

The United States imprisoned whistleblower Brad Birkenfeld for giving them voluminous data that shattered centuries of Swiss bank secrecy.  In contrast, Germany is planning to buy stolen data on Swiss bank accounts from an insider.  Quite a contrast, but it shows in stark relief where each country's priorities are.  

The Swiss, of course, view this as a war against Swiss bank secrecy practices.  Damn right.  That's because in most countries, dodging taxes is illegal.

The willingness of governments to pay for inside data is increasing tensions with France and Germany as Switzerland pretends to abide by treaties implementing its "commitment" to cooperate with international tax probes.  This commitment is undermined by the Swiss government pledging to draft a new law barring officials from assisting foreign countries in cases involving stolen data.

That's the oldest line in the book used against whistleblowers: their disclosures should be invalidated because they "stole" that data that showed cigarette companies were lying about the dangers of smoking, that manufacturers were dumping hazardous waste, etc.  

But there's something called the "crime-fraud exception."  It's not improper to take documents evidencing illegality, fraud, waste and abuse.  For banks or corporations to paint the whistleblower as the wrongdoer is ironic at best since it is the entities that are engaged in illegality.  

But for the Swiss to assert that "it makes it attractive for employees to steal data" by paying whistleblower incentive awards or buying the data is a subterfuge.

Brad Birkenfeld, the whistleblower in the case against UBS, Switzerland's largest bank, is the only one in the entire scandal--a scandal that the U.S. admits would have not been brought to light but for him--in jail.  

Germany's purchase will yield 200 million euros in lost tax revenue to the German government.  The U.S. has received a fraction of what it could have recouped had it put its energy towards criminally prosecuting the Swiss banks and tax cheats, rather than the whistleblower.

Originally posted to Jesselyn Radack on Tue Feb 02, 2010 at 05:13 AM PST.

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