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WikiLeaks could be bankrupt by end of the year, warns Assange

Whistle-blowing website forced to suspend its operations while it struggles to overcome funding boycott

WikiLeaks has suspended its publication schedule in order to launch a new fundraising drive as founder Julian Assange admitted that his organisation could be bankrupt by the end of the year.

In central London yesterday, the 40-year-old Australian transparency campaigner detailed how the ongoing embargo against the whistle-blowing website by a string of US financial companies has cut donations by 95 per cent.

He said WikiLeaks would now concentrate on raising funds to legally challenge that embargo to stave off the risk of going under. "If WikiLeaks does not find a way to remove this blockade given our current levels of expenditure we will simply not be able to continue by the turn of the new year," he said. "So we have decided to redirect the vast majority of our staff resources into knocking down that blockade."

WikiLeaks has been under a de facto financial embargo since early December, when major US-based payment companies including Mastercard, Visa, PayPal and the Bank of America refused to process donations to the website after it published classified US embassy diplomatic cables.

Mr Assange has accused the companies of bowing to political pressure from Washington. "If this financial attack stands unchallenged, a dangerous, oppressive and undemocratic precedent will have been set, the implications of which go far beyond WikiLeaks and its work," he said. "Any organisation that falls foul of powerful finance companies or their political allies can expect similar extrajudicial action."

The group hopes to bring litigation against financial organisations in the UK, Australia, Denmark and the US. It has long been known that the site has struggled to stay financially afloat and – with the exception of a tranche of documents on Guantanamo earlier this year and the slow drip of embassy cables – has not published any new exposés since December. But this is the first time the organisation has detailed its problems in such a public manner.

In an indication of how WikiLeaks is determined to return to publishing data, Mr Assange also took the opportunity yesterday to announce that its encrypted submissions system, which was destroyed by a disgruntled former volunteer in October last year, will be relaunched next month. "We have had to engineer from scrap a completely new generation submissions system," he said.

Asked whether any of the new donations raised for WikiLeaks would go towards the defence in his ongoing battle against extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over sexual assault allegations, he said: "WikiLeaks collected money has never gone towards the Swedish extradition case which I am subject – a case for which I have not been charged. But that hasn't stopped our opponents spreading deliberate disinformation in order to reduce the amount of donations coming to this organisation. Bizarrely, you can still make PayPal and Visa payments to the Julian Assange defence fund – because that goes towards lawyers – but you cannot make Visa payments and PayPal payments to WikiLeaks because that goes towards publication."