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This will be interesting.

From the New York Times, a Swiss banker who ran the Cayman Islands branch of a bank that specialized in private wealth management has turned over the banking records of 2,000 of the world's richest people and corporations.  He alleges that the parties were involved in tax evasion, fraud and other criminality.

Here is the story:

A former Swiss bank executive said on Monday that he had given the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, details of more than 2,000 prominent individuals and companies that he contends engaged in tax evasion and other possible criminal activity

Rudolf M. Elmer, the former head of the Cayman Islands office of the prominent Swiss bank Julius Baer, refused to identify any of the individuals or companies, but told reporters at a press conference that about 40 politicians and “pillars of society” worldwide are among them.

Also noted in the story is an episode that suggests how common this type of criminality has spread, even to the largest and most respected banks in the world:

Prosecutors did, however, credit Mr. Birkenfeld for helping to disclose some illegal tactics in the industry. As a result of Mr. Birkenfeld’s disclosures, UBS agreed to turn over details of several thousand client accounts to the Internal Revenue Service as part of a legal settlement. UBS agreed to pay a $780 million fine and admitted criminal wrongdoing.

This could be a real test for the global community.

Will governments, big business, global wealth and the media come together to excuse, cloak, shelter and protect the individuals and companies named in the Julius Baer documents?

Or will they investigate and prosecute where appropriate?

UPDATE:

A few commenters have asked below, "Well -- what happens now?"

An earlier Guardian article said that they names of account holders would not be made public.

Reporting after yesterday's news conference with Assange and Elmer, however, have the two stating that Wikileaks has not seen or vetted the material yet, but -- according to Assange -- there would be a "full revelation."

Elmer further stated that he had already tried to get the information into the hands of authorities who could investigate the crimes that he alleges, but was unsuccessful in triggering action on their part.  Leaking to Wikileaks is a last-ditch attempt to force the hand of governments.

More:

It's also worth noting that Elmer is motivated by a long-term grudge against his former employer and is currently awaiting trial in Switzerland on charges for violating that country's bank secrecy laws.

We'll be seeing a lot of news stories like this that depict Elmer as a discontent and lawbreaker.

Originally posted to bink on Mon Jan 17, 2011 at 08:37 AM PST.

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