American payment service provider cuts relationship, as whistle-blower struggles to keep website available to public.
|PostFinance says it examined Assange’s account because of his growing media profile [File: AFP]|
A bank in Switzerland has closed an account set up to gather funds for the legal defence of the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange.
The PostFinance account was shut down on Monday after the banking arm of the country’s post office said that Assange had provided incorrect information when applying.
“PostFinance has ended its business relationship with WikiLeaks founder Julian Paul Assange,” the bank said in a statement.
“The Australian citizen provided false information regarding his place of residence during the account opening process.”
Assange, who is believed to have been living at a secret location in the United Kingdom since the website began publishing hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables last week, had apparently given an undisclosed address in the Swiss city of Geneva as his residence.
PostFinance said the checks were made because of Assange’s growing media exposure, making him a high profile client under due diligence requirements.
The closure was the latest setback for WikiLeaks, which has been under fire since it began releasing the leaked memos, communications between US missions abroad and the state department in Washington.
US-based online payment service PayPal on Friday blocked financial transfers to WikiLeaks after governments around the world initiated legal action against the website.
That move came after WikiLeaks’ domain name provider had cut off the site and servers belonging to Amazon.com had stopped hosting it.
A Swiss website, wikileaks.ch, has been handling much WikiLeaks’ traffic since then, but on Monday it apparently came under a distributed denial of service attack.
WikiLeaks, in a tweet to its followers on the social networking site Twitter, confirmed it was having difficulty with its servers but did not elaborate. “We are investigating the cause,” it said.
The WikiLeaks site appears to have been subjected to a number of attacks since it began publishing the documents, which reveal details of US officials dealing with foreign governments.
Meanwhile, media reports in the UK said that British police had received a revised arrest warrant for Assange, who is wanted in Sweden on sex abuse charges.
“Director of Prosecution Ms. Marianne Ny has supplied the British Police with the requested additional information,” the Swedish prosecution authority said in a statement.
“The matter is being dealt with by competent judicial authorities, as defined in the European Arrest Warrant Act.”
Assange has denied the allegations of “rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion” and Mark Stephens, his lawyer, said on Sunday that the pursuit of his client has “political motivations”.
The United States is also looking into taking legal action in accordance to the US Espionage Act against Assange over the release of the classified documents.
“That is certainly something that might play a role, but there are other statutes, other tools at our disposal,” Eric Holder, the US attorney-general, said.
Some legal experts have said it would be difficult for the US to prosecute WikiLeaks or its founder for espionage, but other parts of US law make it easier to prosecute people for unauthorised disclosure of certain classified information.