How Whistleblowers are being assassinated in Switzerland (Part II)
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How Whistleblowers are being assassinated in Switzerland (Part II)
No matter which country, wherever the whistleblowing takes place, the words of whistleblowers are identical in terms of retaliation. Everyone has experienced this fact in their own way: the future appears grim after their professional career came to an end because as in most of the cases, the business world turned its back on those who dared to tell the truth. The justice is slow whilst files are kept waiting and the opponents ostracize the personality of the whistleblower. The citizens find themselves powerless, financially crippled and an extremely large majority of families are in great distress. The same techniques are used in countries that claim to be developed and which proclaim to be democracies. Everything is done to both ostracize the whistleblowers and to minimize the visibility of their alert. However times change, attitudes change and these past years many are the ones who joined the Resistants facing a system where everybody gets chewed up.
I have often wondered whether, like me, the other whistleblowers had in mind President Kennedy’s quote when they decided to blow the whistle, to alert:
Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.
President John F. Kennedy
Switzerland defines itself as a neutral country where it would be pleasant to live and work, offering a higher standard of living than the majority of the European countries. Each citizen facing the justice testifies how difficult it is to be heard and respected. Foreigners take a different look at the Confederation when citizens from whatever field of activity confront the justice. From the outside, one could expect a justice supporting the ‘neutral’ citizens, in the image of the country. It is nothing of the sort. Even when it involves cases as sensitive as those relating to the products of the food processing industry for babies and infants, whistleblowers are not more protected than the ones working in the finance industry. This is rather shocking when we know that the headquarters of numerous sensitive companies such as pharmaceutical, food, chemical activities are located in Switzerland. Even the numerous NGOs and foundations which have their headquarters in Switzerland turn their backs on the whistleblowers.
Yasmine Motarjemi (see previous paper) is far from being the only whistleblower who terribly suffers in the so-called neutral country which is Switzerland.
The circulation of bypassing tax implemented by the financial industry internationally, the complicity of certain States, the corruption of an extensive number of bureaucrats, the leniency of the international justice and the preservation of the triangular system “bank secrecy / offshore company / trust”, all are at the core of the documentary A Leak in Paradise by the Belgian journalist and movie maker David Leloup. It recounts back over RudolfElmer disclosures.
Rudolf Elmer had a good employment. He was working for the internal audit department of the bank and felt that he was part of what he calls “the Baer family”. He totally changed his mind when he was transferred to the Cayman islands as their Chief Accountant, which means responsible for the accounting department, in other words on the other side of the barrier. It was then he began to understand how things were really operating in the world of offshore banking.
His ‘alert’ has been a long process. He initially spoke to his superiors, who threatened to ruin his life if he dared file a complaint against the bank. He then tried to pass the information he had relating to offshore accounts (via trusts and other financial arrangements) to the Swiss Tax Authorities and get their support. As there was no reaction, the information was handed to the Swiss media. However this did not work because the data had not been subject to investigations. In 2005, the whistleblower’s house was searched by the authorities and the data Rudolf Elmer was possessing was confiscated. Since, they have never been analyzed. Rudolf Elmer considered that the data were not ‘stolen’ because he was responsible for them as a Compliance Officer at the bank. Therefore he assumed that when he gave several documents to WikiLeaks in 2008“if the data had contained the names of Osama Ben Laden or weapons intermediaries or members of the Mexican drug cartel, the authorities would obviously have wished to use them and would under no circumstances have argued on the fact that they had been stolen”. Rudolf Elmer had fortunately kept copies and was able to create a commotion in 2011 in giving CDs of the data to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. He explained his gesture by declaring that he knew that Switzerland would never make any investigations on the data of his former employer. RudolfElmer confesses that WikiLeaks has given him a real credit whereas the Swiss media have only published information about his personality, namely that he was mentally ill.
Photo: Julian Assange and Rudolf Elmer during a January 2011 press conference in London
In April 2017 he told me that “the top managers and the bankers know their clients’ secrets and help them to avoid tax. In some cases, they even know that clean money is being used for corruption purposes and probably to finance terrorist actions…”. He added that “the system is incredibly strong because it is brilliantly organized”. He describes it as a “systemic corruption”. According to him, the system “is not about money which makes the world go round, but about the rapaciousness and the power of the major players, the main actors being the banks and multinationals as well as several wealthy individuals, large audit firms called the ‘Big Four’ … and the judiciary system”.
After his disclosures, Rudolf Elmer and his family became outlaws. Rudolf has experienced social death, financial death, lost all his friends with a few exceptions while suffering, with his family, injustice and harassment. He was imprisoned twice in 2005 and in 2011. He declared that the “Swiss judiciary system sometimes treats him as one would treat a terrorist”. The Swiss media have also participated in the ostracization of his personality because he has often been criticized rather than being considered as a whistleblower. In August 2016 however, Rudolf Elmer was able to prove to the justice that he was not a former executive of the Julius Baer bank in Switzerland but working for the Cayman entity. As a consequence, he was relaxed by a Swiss court from facts relating to the violation of bank secrecy, which is an acknowledged advancement because the judgment states that the confidentiality laws do not protect foreign trusts and societies with Swiss bank accounts (The Economist, August 25th, 2016). This is a disaster for the bank and for the whole Swiss finance industry.
Nevertheless, Rudolf Elmer declared, confident, that the golden calf is more powerful and present as ever in Switzerland, that bank secrecy is not ready to stop, that the money flowing to the Swiss Confederation is still very important and that not a single banker nor a bank employee would take the risk to blow the whistle because the situation his family is suffering had been made public and also because his former employer had never been found guilty for its lies nor for its wrongdoings
After publicly revealing the verdict in August 2016, the judge however dared to declare whilst facing the cameras that he had a personal remark to add: “Rudolf Elmer is not a whistleblower but a criminal”.
Julius Baer’s former executive decided to file a defamation complaint against this judge. As far as I am concerned, I cannot but share the grief of Pierre Condamin-Gerbier and of Rudolf Elmer since I was informed that Mark Branson, a UBS manager, who had pleaded guilty to the Investigation Commission of the US Senate about the facts of tax evasion organized by the bank, became the boss of the FINMA i.e. the Swiss Bank Control Authority (He will lead the German regulator as of mid-2021). Incestuous marriages between top politicians, bankers and control authorities are indeed far from being a French exception.
Rudolf Elmer refused to accept an amount of 500,000 Swiss francs proposed by the bank JuliusBaer in order to close all the judicial files opposing them and obtain his silence; the only option of the whistleblower then was to leave the country.
The courageous whistleblower is now filling a complaint as instructiveas detailed to the European Court for Human Rights where he namely states that Switzerland ignores the 2016 GRECO (Group of States against Corruption - Council of Europe) recommendations and that part up to CHF20,000 or 6 % of the annual wages of the Swiss judges has to be paid off to the political party which supports them (!).
The strategy of exhaustion and retaliations also works very well in the public sector as we were informed during the summer of 2018 that a civil servant working for the audit department of the Government Accounting Office in Geneva was made redundant after blowing the whistle internally. All the citizens facing corruption cases are on a very“long and rocky road”… However a day will come when it will be obvious for everybody on earth that all of our political, economical, financial, judiciary, industrial leaders shamefully lie to us. On that day then, one’d rather be on the side of the righteous ones rather than on the side of the corrupted ones.
Cover photo: Lisa Therese Unsplash
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