Swiss bank checks Assange account amid doubt over address
The Swiss Post Office said on Sunday that it was carrying out checks on Wikileaks founder Julian Assange's account with its banking arm, after doubts emerged over the Swiss address he gave.
Wikileaks has advertised the PostFinance account details online to "donate directly to the Julian Assange and other WikiLeaks Staff Defence Fund," giving an account name of "Assange Julian Paul, Geneve."
"We have to find out if Julian Assange really does live in Geneva. In the process of checking we did not find his name in Geneva," PostFinance spokesman Marc Andrey told AFP, confirming a report in the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper.
Andrey said checks were likely to take several weeks and would involve correspondence with Assange, an Australian citizen who is currently in hiding.
He explained that bank accounts were normally granted to Swiss residents or foreigners from areas nearby.
But for people from more distant countries such as Australia or the United States, they must have some kind of relationship with Switzerland, such as business ties or a house.
Andrey declined to give further details on the account, which is covered by Swiss banking secrecy laws, including when it was opened.
"We can confirm to you that he has an account because he published it on his website," Andrey noted.
Under money laundering laws and due diligence requirements for banks, Assange must give his real domicile.
US-based online payment service PayPal said on Friday that it had decided to block financial transfers to WikiLeaks after governments around the world initiated legal action against the whistleblower website.
PostFinance's checks were made because of Assange's growing media exposure, making him a high profile client under due diligence requirements, Andrey said.
But he insisted that they were not necessarily a sign that the bank intended to close the account.
© 2010 AFP