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Swiss ex-banker charged with giving data to WikiLeaks

ZURICH (Reuters) - A Swiss prosecutor brought charges against former Julius Baer private banker Rudolf Elmer on Wednesday for allegedly handing over confidential data to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and attempting to pass on files to German officials.

The former head of Baer's Cayman Islands office has been under investigation by Zurich prosecutors since 2011, when he was arrested for giving Assange what - according to Elmer - were two discs containing confidential information on about 2,000 offshore banking clients.

"The Zurich prosecutor for economic crime brought charges against Rudolf Elmer on July 9, 2014, for breaching banking secrecy and for forgery," the prosecutor said in a statement.

The charges refer to data passed to Assange during a news conference in London and to alleged attempts by Elmer to pass on confidential client data to German officials in 2009 and 2010.

In the past, some German states have bought data leaked from Swiss banks in order to get at names of their citizens who evade taxes, but it is not clear if Elmer's case has any connection to this.

Elmer, who in past has said he wants to draw attention to financial abuses, could not be immediately reached for comment by Reuters on Wednesday. The Zurich prosecutor said Elmer denies having acted criminally.

WikiLeaks has angered U.S. authorities by publishing hundreds of secret diplomatic cables.

(Reporting By Katharina Bart; Editing by Pravin Char)

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