Accounts dossier given to WikiLeaks
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has taken delivery of a disc reportedly containing confidential bank account details of 2,000 rich and famous individuals and corporations.
Swiss whistleblower Rudolf Elmer, a former bank employee who produced the CD, said he wanted to disclose details of mass tax evasion before he flies back to Switzerland to stand trial accused of stealing information from a bank.
Although he has not named those involved, he claims the CD contains information about 40 politicians.
He told The Observer that other clients include business people, multinational conglomerates and "people who have made their living in the arts", and those named in the documents are from Britain, America, Germany, Austria, Asia and "all over".
At the Frontline Club in London, Mr Elmer gave Mr Assange two CDs containing the offshore bank account details of the "high net worth" individuals and businesses.
Mr Elmer, a former executive at Julius Baer Bank, one of Switzerland's top private banks, said he was releasing the information to educate society.
"I do think as banker I have the right to stand up if something is wrong," he said. "I am against the system. I know how the system works and I know the day to day business. From that point of view, I wanted to let society know what I know. It is damaging our society."
Mr Assange, who is currently fighting an extradition battle to Sweden where he faces sexual offences allegations, said the names could be published on the WikiLeaks website in two weeks' time, once they have been verified.
In what is thought to be his first public engagement since he was given bail, Mr Assange said: "We dealt with the Bank Julius Baer issue in 2008 - that's when it had its peak of prominence - it is not a new issue for us.
"I have read some of Mr Elmer's writings. He is clearly a bonafide whistleblower and therefore I feel, given the past involvement in the case, that we have some duty to support him on that matter."