New Delhi, Jan 19 Even as Wikileaks has threatened to reveal the names of 2,000 Swiss bank account holders, an Indian television channel Wednesday claimed it has received “explosive details” from a banker-turned-whistleblower.
“Headlines Today has received the explosive details from whistleblower Rudolf Elmer who has provided Wikileaks with the information collected during the 20 years he worked for Julius Baer, a highly reputed Swiss bank,” the channel said.
The names of 2,000 secret account holders in Swiss banks, including individuals and corporates from the UK, Asia and the US, were on Monday handed over by a former banker to WikiLeaks.
Rudolf Elmer, a former employee of Switzerland-based Bank Julius Baer, said these rich account holders include celebrities, business leaders and lawmakers, who have evaded taxes.
“I will not reveal any company names. I will not name any hi-network individuals but I want to do is to hand this over to WikiLeaks,” Elmer said.
There was no indication whether any Indian account holder figures in the list since WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who received the two discs containing the documents, said he would make it public in the future.
WikiLeaks, after exposing war logs and damning US state department cables, has vowed to unmask these secret account holders.
Assange, who appeared alongside Elmer at London’s Frontline Club to collect the files, pledged to make public the confidential tax details of 2,000 wealthy and prominent individuals. He said that his organisation was currently focussed on the publication of its cache of about 250,000 diplomatic cables.
“We will treat this information like all other information we get. There will be a full revelation,” Assange said.
Headlines Today spoke to Jean Marc Felix, the head of communications Swiss Banks Association (SBA), which swears by its tightly guarded secrecy clause.
“The Swiss Banks Association condemns the theft of client data. It is against our laws. Rudolf Elmer of Julius Baer will have to go to jail. I don’t want to speculate on what is in these disclosures, but we have a well regulated and sophisticated system in place,” Felix said.
“The Headlines Today investigation team scanned document after document looking for an Indian connection in the maze of Swiss bank accounts. The channel identified the names of several individuals and firms that could have operations based in India,” it said.
“The one name that kept cropping up again and again was that of Annapurna.”
The channel said there were three companies with name — Annapurna Convertible Ltd (A/C number: 420331), Annapurna Leverage Ltd (A/C number:4270390) and Annapurna Convertible USD (A/C number: 431916) — with accounts opened in the New York branch of Julius Baer.
The three, the channel added, had stashed away $57 million (Rs.259 crore), $18.6 million (Rs.84 crore) and $10.3 million (Rs.45 crore), respectively and all of them were managed by Pius Fisch of Fisch Asset Management.
The other name to come out was that of Asad Ali Khan and his wife Zahida, who was a co-account holder. Khan had siphoned off a huge amount of money to the Julius Baer Bank in Cayman Islands, the channel claimed.
“He and his wife were directors of a company named Unicorp Services in Cayman Islands,” the channel said, adding: “Of course, there was no way to prove whether Khan was the real identity of the person who opened the account or who was behind Annapurna.”
The channel said the names in the CD were most likely to be fronts for individuals and corporations. A majority of the accounts of companies for which details are available are based in Cayman Islands.
“I have to go through the data, just came across some information about India that’s basically about Swiss Partner, a company which basically provided the insurance company for rich internationals and India is mentioned,” Elmer was quoted as saying.
“I think that the owner of the former Julius Baer group is very much in the business of India. They actually hired Indian investment managers sitting in India and getting money out of India.”
Elmer also reportedly explained to the channel the manner in which Swiss banks operated and also said Swiss companies had devised ways to hide the identity of original account holders so that they can’t be tracked.
Elmer said while he was serving as the bank’s chief operating officer in Cayman Islands, he found evidence that his bank was helping its clients evade tax. He said he was fired when he brought this evidence to the notice of his bosses in Switzerland.
But Julius Baer, in a clarification to Headlines Today, said Elmer was dismissed in December 2002 as he had “exhibited behaviour that was detrimental and unacceptable to the bank”.
The bank said much of the information given by Elmer was either fake or falsified. Headlines Today also added that it cannot independently verify Elmer’s documents that purportedly contain details of bank accounts from 1997-2002.