Again WikiLeaks Shuts Down Visa Card Payments

The brief, accidental lull in the fighting between WikiLeaks and the card companies that refuse to allow the group donations has ended. After WikiLeaks announced Thursday that a “workaround” had appeared for those hoping to contribute to the group via credit card, Visa has moved to shut down that channel and reinstitute the card companies’ financial blockade of the secret-spilling group. Payments to WikiLeaks from all card companies have been blocked again since early Friday, according to Sveinn Andri Sveinnson, an Icelandic lawyer for WikiLeaks and its payment gateway DataCell. More than six months after the Danish payment processor Teller shut down Visa and MasterCard payments to WikiLeaks at the card companies’ request, DataCell had made a new contract with the Icelandic processor Valitor,which unbeknownst to Visa allowed payments to WikiLeaks.

“When we signed this contract, it was clear to Valitor that this was for WikiLeaks donations, and they assented,” says Sveinnson. “Visa was saying that they hadn’t ended their financial blockade but people could see they could make payments. So it was very embarrassing for Visa and very hilarious.”

But Visa, which has claimed that WikiLeaks may violate its terms of service for encouraging illegal activity, didn’t find the situation so funny. It quickly shut down that new line of payment, pressuring Valitor to end its relationship with DataCell and WikiLeaks Friday morning. A spokesperson for Visa confirms in a somewhat convoluted statement that “An acquirer briefly accepted payments on a merchant site linked to WikiLeaks. As soon as this came to our attention, action was taken with the suspension of Visa payment acceptance to the site remaining in place.”

That means all card payments to DataCell and WikiLeaks–including MasterCard and American Express–are blocked again, says Sveinnson.
DataCell chief executive Andreas Fink told Bloomberg News that in the brief window in which WikiLeaks could receive credit card donations, it amassed “five-to-six digit figures” in contributions.
WikiLeaks and DataCell had been planning to file a complaint Thursdaywith the European Union Commission against Visa, MasterCard, and the Danish payment processor Teller. Sveinnson said they held off on filing that complaint after it seemed the card companies might have reopened payments. Now Sveinsson says they will go ahead with their complaint against the card companies early next week, and will file an additional protest against Valitor with the Icelandic Financial Authority.

“Now we’re back to the same position,” says Sveinnson. “It’s a strange world we live in.”


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