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Credit Cards Sued in VA for Wikileaks Blockade

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) - A credit card processor for Wikileaks told a federal judge that Visa and MasterCard owe it $5 million for their payment-blocking conspiracy.

Iceland-based DataCell says it had just partnered the secret-spilling website's nonprofit operator, Sunshine Press, to process donations from WikiLeaks supporters in October 2010 when Wikileaks embarrassed the U.S. State Department the next month with its release of diplomatic cables.

Reactions in Congress to the leaks were fierce, according to the complaint DataCell filed Monday.

U.S. Rep. Peter King, for example, "requested that Sunshine Press be placed on the terrorist organization list and that it be blacklisted from doing any business with American companies," DataCell says.

Then-Sen. Joseph Lieberman meanwhile urged affiliates of Sunshine Press to immediately cease those business relationships, according to the complaint.

Neither King nor Lieberman are named as defendants to DataCell's complaint, which takes aim only at Visa Inc., MasterCard Inc., and Visa's European counterpart.

"To punish Sunshine Press and try to put it out of business as retribution for disclosure of the State Department cables, Lieberman and King instructed their respective staffs to contact defendant Visa and defendant MasterCard and demand that they block individuals from donating money to Sunshine Press," the complaint states. "The efforts of the staffs of Lieberman and King were coordinated and were successful."

Before the interruption, DataCell says it stood to receive 5 percent of the donations WikiLeaks collected.

"All of Sunshine Press's funding comes from public donations, of which a significant portion is paid via credit cards, specifically credit cards issued as Visa and MasterCard cards," the complaint states.

Upon the payment-processing suspension that Visa and MasterCard enacted on Dec. 8, 2010, Sunshine Press and DataCell's partner PBS International "never" provided them with acquiring services for credit card transactions again, the complaint states.

PBS is not a defendant to Monday's action.

DataCell says it tried to open a new payment-processing account with another company, Valitor, in June 2011, but that this entity in July "stopped all credit card processing for DataCell, because of its association with Sunshine Press, after being contacted by Visa and MasterCard."

Though Valitor is not a defendant to Monday's action, DataCell and Wikileaks did sue that company on Bastille Day 2011 for the illegal blockade.

In 2012, an Icelandic judge ordered major credit card companies to start processing WikiLeaks donations within two weeks or pay $6,200 a day in sanctions.

MasterCard admitted in an August 2011 letter that Lieberman's and King's staff members contacted it regarding Sunshine Press, the complaint states.

At the time when Visa and MasterCard discontinued their services to DataCell, they had a combined 95.5 percent share of the payment-card market, DataCell notes.

This effectively shut down financial donations to Sunshine Press, with no valid economic reason to do so, the complaint states.

DataCell seeks $5 million in damages for civil conspiracy and for violations of the Sherman Act and the Virginia Antitrust Act.

After the European Commission decided not to investigate the credit cards over the blockade in 2012, WikiLeaks responded by releasing documents that it said showed that the commission had been misled.

DataCell is represented by Philip Harvey with Harvey and Binnall, which declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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