Swiss banker hands WikiLeaks list of tax evaders

A Swiss banker has handed WikiLeaks a list of 2,000 of the world's richest companies and individuals that he claims contains evidence of massive tax evasion.

Appearing alongside WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at a press conference held today at London's Frontline Club, Rudolf Elmer held aloft two CDs that he said contained, among other data, details on "approximately 40 politicians".

No details were released at the press conference, at which Assange promised "full revelation" of data that provides evidence of widespread tax evasion.

Elmer is the former chief operating officer in the Cayman Islands of Swiss bank Julius Baer, which accuses him of having stolen the data. He is set to return to his native Switzerland from exile in Mauritius to face trial.

The ex-banker is accused of breaching Switzerland's banking secrecy laws, forging documents and sending threatening messages to two officials at Julius Baer.

Elmer told The Observer newspaper on Sunday that he is releasing the information "to educate society". He said that individuals detailed in the leak - who he said come from the US, Britain, Germany, Austria and Asia - were "using secrecy as a screen to hide behind in order to avoid paying tax".

"What I am objecting to is not one particular bank, but a system of structures," he told The Observer. "I have worked for major banks other than Julius Baer, and the one thing on which I am absolutely clear is that the banks know, and the big boys know, that money is being secreted away for tax-evasion purposes, and other things such as money-laundering - although these cases involve tax evasion."

But in a dig at The Observer's sister paper, The Guardian, with whom the Australian is reported to have had a rocky relationship over earlier WikiLeaks revelations, Assange urged attendees at today's press conference to "take it from us, not from them".

The WikiLeaks founder claimed never to have met Elmer before the press conference. Bringing a personal dimension to the discussion, he referred to attempts made by financial institutions including Visa, Mastercard and Paypal to prevent WikiLeaks receiving donations from the public. These included the freezing of his own assets by Swiss bank PostFinance.

A number of the institutions have admitted coming under pressure from the US government, embarrassed by the whistle-blowing site's leak of more than 250,000 secret US diplomatic cables. Assange claimed today that the actions of the banks were "all entirely outside the judicial process".

Assange, who himself faces extradition to Sweden for questioning over allegations of sexual misconduct, claimed Swiss courts had no jurisdiction to try Elmer over the leak, stating: "Swiss banks cannot protect data in the Cayman Islands".