Former Swiss private banker Rudolf Elmer was found guilty by a court on Wednesday [Reuters]

Rudolf Elmer, the former banker who handed WikiLeaks details of rich and famous tax evaders, has been found guilty of coercion.

A Zürich court on Wednesday also found him guilty of breaching Switzerland's strict banking secrecy laws, publicising private client data, and threatening an employee at his former firm Julius Baer, but he faces no jail time.

Judge Sebastian Aeppli rejected prosecution demands to give Elmer an eight-month prison sentence.

Instead the court sentenced him to a fine of 7,200 Swiss francs ($7,505), suspended for two years.

Elmer was accused of stealing information from clients then trying to extort money from his employers after they fired him.

Whistleblower

The trial on Wednesday came two days after Elmer handed additional client data to whistleblowing site WikiLeaks information prosecutors allege he stole after being fired from his job.

Elmer helped bring WikiLeaks to prominence three years ago when he handed over secret client information.

He admitted sending confidential bank data to tax authorities. But he denied charges of blackmail and a bomb threat against Julius Baer, as alleged by prosecutors.

Elmer also denied taking payments in return for secret data.

The leaked data, which was given to Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, included two CDs that Elmer said contained names of 2,000 wealthy account holders. But he refused to give details of the companies or individuals involved.

Elmer claimed at the one-day trial in Switzerland's banking capital that he acted after being persecuted by his former employer Julius Baer.

'Exposing abuses'

Elmer said he wanted to expose widespread tax evasion by rich businesspeople and politicians when he sent confidential banking files to tax authorities, media and later to WikiLeaks.

The trial drew broad media attention and about a dozen protesters gathered in front of the court building.

"We think those who expose the distasteful side of Swiss finance need our support," said Walter Angst, one of the protesters.

Several Swiss banks including UBS, AG and Credit Suisse Group have suffered embarrassing data leaks in recent years, some at the hands of disgruntled employees.

Elmer's initial actions had caused a US judge to shut down WikiLeaks for two weeks in early 2008, marking the only time that the secrecy-spilling website has been forced offline for a significant amount of time.

Source: Agencies