The Icelandic Parliament has launched an investigation into what grounds financial firms have for violating contractual obligations to process credit and debit card transactions intended to donate money to Wikileaks. Robert Marshall, who leads the Parliament’s control committee, called the credit card blockade “serious” and “highly dubious”.
Government officials in both Norway and Iceland are questioning the grounds for what’s become a credit card blockade against WikiLeaks that has disrupted the non-profit whistle-blowing organization’s ability to raise funds. Norwegian-Danish finance firm Teller is also the target of a government inquiry.
Norway’s leading business newspaper, Dagens Næringsliv (DN), has reported in a series of articles this week how Visa Europe and MasterCard have effectively blocked their credit card holders’ ability to send donations to WikiLeaks. The blockade has been carried out through the Norwegian-Danish finance firm Teller, which handles credit card transactions for Visa Europe and MasterCard.
Teller officials claim they were ordered by Visa Europe to suspend yet another firm involved in the complicated chain of credit card facilitators, Datacell of Iceland, which received donations (which donors had charged to their credit cards) on behalf of WikiLeaks.
Demanding legal basis for the suspension
DN reported earlier this week that a leading Norwegian law professor believes the credit card blockade, suspected of being politically motivated because of WikiLeaks’ disclosures of classified government documents, is illegal and violates both national and EU finance agreements and directives.
Once again, the collaborative actions of financial institutions to block Wikileaks supports my argument the banks, not the US government, are the driving force behind efforts to stop Wikileaks from releasing leaked information about internal bank dealings.
Both VISA and Teller are justifying the controversial suspension on a probe they’ve launched into whether Datacell or WikiLeaks have violated either terms of their agreement with VISA or Danish law.
It’s left Norwegian officials at Teller in an awkward position, and now a law professor at the University of Oslo claims Teller may be violating Norwegian law by effectively blocking financial payments to WikiLeaks. Professor Olav Torvund suggested Teller’s move amounts to abuse of power.
“No matter what you might think about WikiLeaks, this (Datacell’s suspension) is extremely problematic,” Torvund told DN. “WikiLeaks has neither been charged nor convicted for any illegalities. This is only a politically hot potato.”
Torvund criticized Teller’s involvement in blocking payments to WikiLeaks, and suggested it may violate finance agreements and EU directives. Datacell was already planning to file a lawsuit.