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By | Tim Worstall 11th July 2011 11:35

Wikileaks loses briefly-open Icelandic payment channel

Back to Bitcoin, banks and brown envelopes for Assange™

So WikiLeaks and Julian Assange have been frustrated again: on the money front that is. They're back to cash, Bitcoin and bank transfers as a method of receiving donations.

There had been a hope last week that DataCell would be able to start processing donations, for it had made an agreement with the Icelandic bank Valitor to have Visa and Mastercard payments processed by the bank.

The problem for WikiLeaks, as you will know, is that the two credit card processing conglomerates have refused to handle donations being sent to the whistle-blowing site ever since the site published those US State Department documents last December. Might sound unfair, might even be unfair, but pissing off the big boys always does have consequences and no US-based company dependent upon a banking licence or even US government goodwill is going to take the risk of handling money for the people who did that.

DataCell says that it had always been open about the fact that it was going to process payments for WikiLeaks when it made its deal with Valitor. Valitor denies this. Spokeswoman Jonina Ingvadottir told Reuters in an emailed statement on Friday that:

"Valitor was not informed that DataCell would be conducting these activities when their business agreement was made."

She cited Visa and MasterCard's prohibition on the "service such as DataCell is offering WikiLeaks".

Some 100 or so payments made it through the system before this financial lifeline was again cut.

As WikiLeaks itself says, there doesn't seem to be any legislative reason why the two credit card companies can't or won't process donations to them, nor why PayPal can't. But that they won't is certainly a problem: WikiLeaks' own estimation is that the bans have cost it $15m in reduced donations.

It's certainly possible to get irate about the financial strangulation: but DataCell themselves do seem to have been a bit cheeky here, knowing full well that when it became known that WikiLeaks' donations were being processed through the Visa system that that processing would stop. Or at least they should have known full well.

Perhaps this is more political theatre rather than a really determined attempt to open up the funding route again. ®

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