Although WikiLeaks is reportedly reviewing secret information on approximately 2,000 offshore banking clients, it’s unlikely the material will be made public soon, according to reports.
Rudolf Elmer, a Swiss bank whistleblower, handed over two CDs of information to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at a news conference in London on Monday, prompting speculation about potential revelations. "WikiLeaks is my only hope to get society to know what's going on," Elmer said.
In Canada, newspapers are reporting that Canadians attempting to evade taxes by using offshore accounts could be exposed. One law professor at Queen’s University said tax evaders should be “quaking in their boots,” in the Toronto Sun. Statistics Canada reported in 2003 that approximately $88 billion was hidden in tax havens by wealthy Canadians and corporations.
The Times of India reported that “some Indian-sounding names” are included in the Swiss Bank secret accounts data. Elmer told Headlines Today TV channel, "I think that owner of Julius Baer is very much in the business of India. They actually hired investment managers sitting in India for getting money out of India."
Elmer, a former employee of Julius Baer and Trust Ltd. who was fired in 2002, was scheduled to go on trial in Switzerland this week over allegations of breaching bank-secrecy rules. The bank accuses Elmer of pursuing a vendetta.
U.S. response has been muted to the most recent WikiLeaks story. When contacted by The New York Times Tuesday, Michelle Eldridge, an IRS spokeswoman, declined to comment on the documents.
If criminal activity is revealed, the IRS could take action, the Times reported, but simply holding an offshore bank account is not a criminal activity.
“If some of these people have already reported their accounts” on their American tax returns – if they were required to file them – “or voluntarily disclosed them to the IRS, they may have nothing to fear,” said Peter R. Zeidenberg, a white-collar criminal defense lawyer at DLA Piper.
The federal government already is conducting an aggressive criminal investigation into Assange and WikiLeak’s release of more than 250,000 diplomatic cables last month.
Assange said it could be several weeks or longer until any bank information would be released. ABC News reports Elmer as saying that the names include 40 politicians and business leaders, celebrities, organized crime leaders, and three major financial institutions, including Julius Baer.
Reuters reported that Washington lawyer Jack Blum, a former Congressional investigator who has been advising Elmer, said Elmer would not be releasing any names or corporations from the data cache himself. The account data outlined financial "structures" which are "difficult to figure out what is going on."