Visa Europe Again Closes Payment Gateway to WikiLeaks

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WikiLeaks supporters briefly regained access to Visa Inc.’s payment gateway in a series of rapid midweek developments, but by Friday the gateway closed again.

"The gateway was in action for some days," WikiLeaks' and DataCell’s attorney, Sveinn Andri Sveinsson, said in a phone interview, adding that "some lack of communication" within Visa may have led to the gateway's temporary opening. Visa last year instituted a policy blocking WikiLeaks payments.

The latest developments began when DataCell, a Web-hosting service based in Iceland, secured a WikiLeaks payments-processing contract with Icelandic payments processor Valitor. Valitor opened the gateway, only to close it on instructions from "international card companies," according to an online statement from DataCell.

Sveinsson said WikiLeaks and DataCell now plan to file a complaint with the Icelandic Financial Authority asking that Valitor have its payment-processing license revoked. A Valitor representative did not immediately respond to queries.

Visa Europe Ltd. on Friday confirmed the incident.

"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," Visa Europe said in a statement.

WikiLeaks had previously notified Visa and MasterCard of its intention to file a complaint July 7 with the European Commission protesting the payment blockade.

Sveinsson said WikiLeaks decided to hold off when it appeared the gateway had been reopened, though he and his clients still held an “informal meeting” with members of the Commission July 7. He said WikiLeaks now plans to file its complaint early this week.

DataCell on July 7 said WikiLeaks was accepting donations transmitted via Visa, MasterCard and for the first time, American Express Co., but MasterCard and Amex deny it.

MasterCard has not accepted any WikiLeaks payments since December, when it, too, instituted a policy to block them, MasterCard spokesman James Issokson said in an email.

"MasterCard's position on acceptance has not changed," he said.

Amex also saidits policies forbid such payments.

"DataCell is not authorized to process the donations described on its website on the American Express network," American Express spokeswoman Christine Elliott said in an email.

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