Bank of America Corp said on Saturday it will not process payments intended for WikiLeaks, which has angered U.S. authorities with the mass release of U.S. diplomatic cables.
The largest U.S. bank by assets joins a growing group of financial services companies, including MasterCard, PayPal and Visa Europe, that are restricting payments to the global organization which has said its next large document release will be bank information.
This decision is based upon our reasonable belief that WikiLeaks may be engaged in activities that are, among other things, inconsistent with our internal policies for processing payments, the bank said in a statement obtained by Reuters.
WikiLeaks has said it will release documents early next year that will point to unethical practices at a major U.S. bank, widely thought to be Bank of America.
Several companies have ended services to WikiLeaks after the website teamed up with major newspapers to publish thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables that have caused tension between Washington and some of its allies.
WikiLeaks later issued a message on Twitter urging its supporters to leave the bank.
We ask that all people who love freedom close out their accounts at Bank of America, it said on the social networking medium.
Does your business do business with Bank of America? Our advice is to place your funds somewhere safer, WikiLeaks said in a subsequent tweet.
In a backlash against organizations that have cut off WikiLeaks, cyber activists have been targeting companies seen as foes of the website.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was released on bail this week from a jail in Britain, where he is fighting extradition to Sweden over alleged sexual offenses.
Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, said on Friday that he was the target of an aggressive U.S. investigation and feared extradition to the United States was increasingly likely.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said his government is considering using the U.S. Espionage Act, under which it is illegal to obtain national defense information for the purpose of harming the United States, as well as other laws to prosecute the release of sensitive government information by WikiLeaks.
(Additional reporting by Sandra Maler in Washington; editing by Mohammad Zargham)