WikiLeaks partner loses Visa, MasterCard loophole

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 08, 2011 3:34 PM
WikiLeaks partner loses Visa, MasterCard loophole

By Maria Aspan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A WikiLeaks partner found a new bank to accept Visa and MasterCard donations this week, but the respite from the card networks' months-long embargo was only temporary, because the bank shut down the payments within hours, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Visa and MasterCard, the world's two largest card networks, blocked donations to WikiLeaks in December. But on Thursday, WikiLeaks payments provider DataCell said it could start processing donations to Julian Assange's group again.

An Icelandic bank called Valitor had agreed to accept payments processed by DataCell, but DataCell did not tell Valitor that those payments would include donations to WikiLeaks, one person familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Valitor blocked the Visa and MasterCard WikiLeaks donations by Friday and terminated its contract with DataCell, the person said.

Fewer than 100 donations were processed before Valitor blocked the payments, the person said.

Other media outlets this week reported that it was Visa Europe that discontinued the Wikileaks donations, but DataCell confirmed to Reuters that Valitor discontinued all donations to Wikileaks it had been accepting.

It is the latest wrinkle in the long battle over payments to WikiLeaks. The Internet vigilante group Anonymous temporarily shut down the public websites of both Visa and MasterCard in December, after both card network companies stopped processing donations to WikiLeaks.

Several companies cut off services to WikiLeaks late last year after the whistleblower organization made public a massive trove of secret U.S. diplomatic cables.

Visa and MasterCard send money from bank to bank around the world, on behalf of consumers, companies, governments and other organizations. But those organizations, including WikiLeaks and its processing partner, need bank partners.

DataCell founder Olaf Sigurvinsson confirmed that Valitor had terminated the contract with his company this week. He told Reuters that when he signed the contract with Valitor, "it was absolutely clear that we were going to continue our proposal to collect donations," including to WikiLeaks.

He said DataCell has filed a complaint over Valitor's actions to the financial supervisor in Iceland, and that they plan to file one to the European Union.

A Valitor spokeswoman reached by phone on Friday requested questions by email, but did not respond to a subsequent email.

Visa Europe spokeswoman Amanda Kamin said in an email on Friday, "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."

MasterCard said it has not changed its position on the WikiLeaks donation embargo.

(Reporting by Maria Aspan, editing by Matthew Lewis)