Credit card donations to WikiLeaks flowing through Iceland again

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - International credit card donations to WikiLeaks are flowing again after an Icelandic court ruling forced MasterCard’s and Visa’s local agent to process payments, the companies involved in processing the funds said.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange arrives at the Supreme Court in Westminster, on the second day of his extradition appeal, in central London, February 2, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

One of WikiLeaks’ most important sources of funding - donations made from Visa and MasterCard users around the globe - was cut off in 2010 when the firms stopped processing donations to WikiLeaks’ direct payment line in Iceland.

Their move came after criticism by the United States of the anti-secrecy organization’s release of thousands of sensitive U.S. diplomatic cables, which embarrassed Washington.

The online payment service PayPal, also among the firms that suspended WikiLeaks’ accounts used to collect donations, said at the time it had acted at the behest of the U.S. government, which deemed WikiLeaks’ activities illegal in the United States.

DataCell, the Icelandic data hosting provider that deals with WikiLeaks payments, this week announced that donations were now officially possible following the Icelandic Supreme Court’s decision in April.

WikiLeaks was not immediately available for comment.

“We have had donations from around the world,” DataCell’s Chief Executive Andreas Fink told Reuters. He did not give an exact amount.

Fink said DataCell had been processing about 70,000 euros a day in donations for WikiLeaks just before it was cut off. Iceland has been a key location for WikiLeaks due to its record of protecting Internet freedom.

WikiLeaks said its donations had fallen 95 percent after it was cut off by the world’s two largest credit and debit processors, even though it found some workarounds.

DataCell won a Supreme Court ruling against Visa’s and MasterCard’s local agent, Valitor, in April. It was announced only this week as DataCell awaited confirmation that the credit card payment line would remain open indefinitely.

“We can continue to process donations for WikiLeaks for as long as we like,” said Fink. “There has never been anything illegal. We have done normal business with a normal entity.”

Visa Europe said Valitor would comply with the court order. MasterCard was not immediately available for comment, but Valitor said it had received a go-ahead from the company.

“We have to honor the ruling of the Supreme Court,” said Sigurdur Gudjonsson, Valitor’s legal adviser. “The payment line should be open.”

The reopening of donations comes as WikiLeaks tries to help former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, holed up in a Moscow international airport, to get asylum.

A former director at DataCell said recently he would send a private plane for Snowden, wanted by Washington for espionage after divulging classified details of U.S. phone and Internet surveillance, if Iceland granted him asylum.

WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange, who fled to Ecuador’s embassy in London last year to avoid extradition to Sweden to face rape and sexual assault allegations, has said the financial blockade cost WikiLeaks in excess of $20 million.

Reporting by Mia Shanley; Editing by Jon Boyle and Kevin Liffey