Swiss Post closes WikiLeaks founder's bank account

6th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

The Swiss Post Office's banking arm said on Monday that it had closed an account set up by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after he gave false information.

"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 had given an undisclosed address in the Swiss city of Geneva as his residence, it added.

WikiLeaks 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."

The closure marked a new setback for Wikileaks' frontman, amid intense pressure to close the whistleblowing website since it began releasing highly sensitive US State Department cables.

US-based online payment service PayPal on Friday blocked financial transfers to WikiLeaks after governments around the world initiated legal action against the website.

A PostFinance spokesman told AFP on Sunday that the bank was in the process of carrying out checks after it failed to find Assange's name registered in Geneva.

"Assange entered Geneva as his domicile. Upon inspection, this information was found to be incorrect," it concluded on Monday.

"Assange cannot provide proof of residence in Switzerland and thus does not meet the criteria for a customer relationship with PostFinance. For this reason, PostFinance is entitled to close his account."

The bank had said that checks would normally involve correspondence with Assange, who is currently in hiding and faces an international arrest warrant issued by Swedish prosecutors on sex assault allegations.

However, PostFinance said his case turned out to be more difficult.

"We haven't had contact with him and we don't know where he is," spokesman Alex Josty told AFP.

Accounts are normally granted to Swiss residents or foreigners from areas nearby, according to PostFinance.

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.

Despite Swiss banking secrecy, under money laundering laws and due diligence requirements for banks clients must give their real domicile.

PostFinance has said the checks were made because of Assange's growing media exposure, making him a high profile client under due diligence requirements.

Josty declined to say whether there was money in the account, but he underlined that it would belong to Assange.

"He would have a right to that money and we would ask him where to transfer it."

© 2010 AFP

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