Iceland-based debit and credit card company Valitor has been ordered to pay $9.85 million (1.2 billion Icelandic Krona) for illegally blocking payments to WikiLeaks in 2010, reports local media outlet The Reykjavik Grapevine, April 25, 2019.
A Multi-Year Legal Battle Comes to Closure
Visa and Mastercard’s partner company in Iceland, Valitor was found guilty by the Reykjavik District Court for illegally blocking payments to the controversial international nonprofit WikiLeaks – a media outlet that publishes classified documents provided by anonymous sources.
Wikileaks was in news recently when its eccentric editor, Julian Assange was arrested from the Ecuadorian embassy in London in a rather unconventional manner. The arrest received widespread media coverage with free speech advocates projecting Assange as the messiah of a free and independent press.
Heading back to Iceland, the case against Valitor began sometime in 2010 when a data hosting company named DataCell was given the responsibility to handle donations sent to WikiLeaks.
The year 2010 was a particularly important one for the publishing company as its famous Chelsea Manning leaks made rounds in media houses across the world. However, soon after the leaks, Valitor blocked transactions from Visa card holders in Iceland to WikiLeaks, thus starting a legal tug-of-war that would last for years.
Valitor Fined $9.85 Million
At the time, then director of DataCell, Ólafur Sigurvinsson said that people can openly support Al-Qaeda, the Ku Klux Klan, and buy and sell weapons on the internet but they cannot support a human rights nonprofit because of its perceived danger to the status quo. Sigurvinsson added that silencing the voice of an organization fighting for the freedom of expression is a very serious issue but no one seems to be investigating it.
Speaking to radio station Rás 2, Ólafur added:
“This is a very serious breach, and not just of the contract that we have [with Visa] … now card-holders cannot decide for themselves where they spend their money.”
Fast forward to 2019, DataCell has finally won the legal battle against Valitor which has now been ordered to pay approximately $9.85 million to both DataCell and Wikileaks’ publishing firm, Sunshine Press Productions.
Dubbing the Reykjavik District Court’s decision a “Solomon’s judgment,” Sunshine Press lawyer Sveinn Andri Sveinsson told reports that while they were seeking about $147.85 million in damages, Valitor was wishing to have the case dismissed altogether.