Wikileaks and Datacell: an inconvenient truth? - interview
Hello, this is John Robles. I’m speaking with Mr. Andreas Fink, he’s the CEO of Datacell in Iceland.
Can you give our listeners a little bit of an update on what’s going on with WikiLeaks? Recently they’ve won a court case against Valitor. Can you tell us about that?
Yes. Valitor is one of the payment processors we have used to process donations to WikiLeaks and for our own services. And when they opened up the payment gateway in 2011, they closed it again within 24 hours, saying everything was illegal, and it was a breach of contract. We sued them and the court has ruled now in our favor saying that Valitor has to re-open the gateway within 14 days and pay fines for every day they haven’t opened it after those 14 days.
Are you confident that they’re going to follow the court’s ruling?
We’ll have to see. I mean they still have the possibility to object the ruling and push it further to the next court. I heard some rumors through the press that they intend to do this. If they have much success in the Supreme Court is questionable, because there is not many arguments they can bring and the court has ruled pretty heavily in our favor.
I think this is a pretty big victory for WikiLeaks, isn’t it?
Yeah, it’s just the first step. I mean, there’re additional steps to follow. Of course there’s the damage which has to be figured out and there’s a second claim in Denmark against the other payment processor. And then there’s a court case in EU Commission about a similar thing.
Will the ruling in Iceland affect those other cases, do you think?
Well, they’ve had a precedent for those other cases. We have now a court who has clearly ruled that one of the factors is invalid. First, the payment to third parties which was one of the arguments they put forward to close down the gateway. They said: “Well, the donations go to WikiLeaks, but the payment was going to Datacell on behalf of WikiLeaks”. So, they said: “This is a payment to a third party”. And this argument has now been objected. The second thing was that the court hasn’t found anything illegal with WikiLeaks, for no fact has been presented that WikiLeaks should be illegal in anyway which is of course a good confirmation for WikiLeaks.
That’s great. Listen, have you had any pressure from the US possibly due to your cooperation with WikiLeaks - that you can talk about?
We have not had any direct contact with the US government or any related party there. The only thing we had is that Visa, of course, pressed the credit card companies to close us down and this had an effect on our whole business, not only the donations to WikiLeaks. That has been quite severe damage to us.
Do you know of any other companies or any other precedent such as yours? Do you think Visa was pushed by the US government to take such measures?
We don’t have any evidence of that but it’s very obvious that Visa wouldn’t do that on their own. It’s also big business for them. So if they go and take our company to be disconnected just because we’re donating to Visa and make sure that we don’t have access to the payment system again, then it’s pretty obvious that there must be some forces behind that. Actually now we have some proof, another case where we’re seeing that the US government is behind it.
And what was that about? Can you speak about that?
Well, we once, in 2010 tried to open credit cards processing through the Diner’s Club Card in addition to MasterCard. And the answer from them was that they couldn’t process it because they were ordered by the US government not to.
Really? This was told to you by Diners Club?
Yes, it was the company which actually processed the Diner’s Club transactions, which is called discover in the U.S. I think.
I see. Can you give our listeners a little bit of an idea about how much you’ve lost due to these actions and how much has WikiLeaks lost?
We have lost around €130,000 per day in transactions. That was the amount we were processing in December. And since then we were totally closed down.
So, since December of 2011 you’ve been losing €130,000 a day?
I’m sorry. December 2010!
If you multiply this you end up with something like 75 million euros in total.
You think they will try to get out of it? Is there anything you can do if they decide not to follow the ruling?
First thing they can do, they can appeal. If they lose the appeal then the court ruling is set and the court has ruled that they have to pay fines for every day they don’t open the gateway. And of course with that ruling being in effect we can also go and claim damages for the past.
In the past have you spoken with Julian Assange during the whole process at all? Have you had contact with him?
We’ve had contact with him in 2010 and 2011 about all these processes because WikiLeaks is a very important customer of ours, of course. We haven’t talked to him personally lately. I think he’s not easy to reach these days.
Anything else you want to discuss, or let our listeners know, about what’s going on there?
Well, what’s happening now is that we have this case with Valitor. We have the same case with Teller in Denmark which is now going on. And the European Commission has a case on their table to rule in general that Visa MasterCard has abused their market and we are quite eager to get the results of that as soon as they open the investigation that has been filed over a year ago by now.
Do you have any forecast on that? When will that go to court?
They once said that it’s going to be before the summer, which is like now. I guess we’re going to hear from them pretty soon.
Overall, are you positive about the outcome?
We have now one court who confirms that we haven’t done anything wrong which just confirms that what we were doing and that our arguments were perfectly OK. So we believe we cannot be on the wrong track.
Do you believe in what WikiLeaks was doing? Do you believe that’s freedom of press and freedom of speech?
Absolutely. Otherwise we wouldn’t have done business with them in the first place.