WikiLeaks Victory Against Visa A “Significant Victory”
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
An Icelandic court ordered a local Visa affiliate – which had broken contract laws by refusing to process credit card donations to WikiLeaks – to resume processing transactions in what officials at the website dubbed a “significant victory” in its ongoing battle with governments and financial institutions, various media outlets are reporting.
According to the Associated Press (AP), a District Court ordered Valitor, a local Visa partner based in Reykjavik, to resume forwarding donations to DataCell, WikiLeaks’ payment processor, within two weeks’ time.
Failure to do so will result in daily fines of 800,000 kronur (approximately $6,000), DataCell attorney Sveinn Andri Sveinsson told the wire service following Thursday’s ruling.
In a telephone interview, WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson told the AP that the ruling was “a very important milestone in our campaign,” and in a statement cited by Charles Arthur of the Guardian, the website’s founder, Julian Assange, called it “a significant victory against Washington’s attempt to silence WikiLeaks.”
“We will not be silenced. Economic censorship is censorship. It is wrong. When it’s done outside of the rule of law it’s doubly wrong,” Assange added. “One by one those involved in the attempted censorship of WikiLeaks will find themselves on the wrong side of history.”
In December 2010, Visa and several other American financial institutions, including Mastercard, Bank of America, PayPal, and Western Union stopped accepting and handling payments intended for WikiLeaks after the website started leaking top-secret US documents.
The decision was made because the website had been “engaging in or facilitating” illegal activity, Arthur said, and Visa International told the Guardian that Thursday’s ruling might not change that stance, which WikiLeaks claims had cost it nearly $20 million in funding.
“Even if Valitor does resume passing payments to WikiLeaks accounts in Iceland, it is not clear that it would have any to process,” Arthur wrote. “The Visa and Mastercard system works in a ‘four-party’ model, where the customer holding a credit card effectively has a contract with an ‘issuing bank’. At the receiving end is the ‘accepting bank’ — in this case Valitor — and its ‘merchant’ (here, WikiLeaks).”
“Visa and Mastercard effect the transfer of funds between the issuing bank and the accepting bank. While the court may have restored the tie between Valitor and WikiLeaks, it is unclear whether that means that Visa is obliged to pass on money transferred to an issuing bank from a cardholder,” he added.