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Our cricket players, film stars too have Swiss bank accounts

To the long list of Indians who have stashed away black money in Swiss bank accounts, add a few “politicians, cricket players and film stars.”

That’s the dope that famed Swiss bank whistleblower Rudolf Elmer, who was jailed for his efforts to blow the lid off Swiss secrecy laws that protect criminals, delivered in an interview to Headlines Today channel.

“We had Indian clients in Switzerland,” said Elmer, who has been under investigation in Switzerland since he sensationally handed over to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange a CD that was believed to contain the names of 2,000 global politicians and celebrities who had secret Swiss bank accounts.

But Elmer said he would be imprisoned again if he revealed any names now, or even gave away too much information. “I’m still under investigation. If I talk about it, I run the risk that I’m imprisoned tomorrow.”

He did acknowledge, however, that among the Indians who held secret Swiss Bank accounts were “politicians, cricket players, managers, and film stars.”

The Swiss bank holdings of these celebrities and politicians weren’t just in the form of money, Elmer said. It included jewellery, gold coins, paintings in Swiss safes, and the estimation made that these holdings were collectively worth about $1.3 trillion wasn’t far off the mark, he added. “It’s an estimation that I think is not far off.”

 Our cricket players, film stars too have Swiss bank accounts

Whistleblower Rudolf Elmer makes a symbolic handover of a CD with names of Swiss bank accountholders. Paul Hackett / Reuters

Pressed repeatedly to disclose some names, Elmer declined, noting that he had been jailed twice. In any case, he said, if the Indian government really exerted pressure on the Swiss government in the way that the US was doing, it would secure the information it wanted.

“India is a very strong country, and is getting stronger every day, so you do have negotiating power. Indian society has to force the Indian government to pursue secret jurisdictions,” Elmer said.

In his estimation, only one government is challenging Switzerland – “and that’s the US. The Indian government doesn’t do enough,” Elmer said. “Switzerland, with its bank secrecy laws, has protected tax evaders for a long time. It needs pressure from governments to challenge that.”

Elmer disclosed that the CDs he handed over to Assange in January 2011 in London were empty. “It was only a symbolic handover – because it was a public place and the police could have intervened.” But he insists that the sensational data is with Assange. “Assange wouldn’t have turned up if there was no information.”

Elmer, however, expressed confidence that the names of Indian account holders would come out "one way or another", although it was difficult to specify a date for that. "We're going to find ways.. Don't worry about it."

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Updated Date: Sep 13, 2011 07:42:16 IST