DataCell COO and WikiLeaks business associate Ólafur Sigurvinsson threatened local newspaper Morgunblaðið with a lawsuit last Friday, believing that they changed his company’s door lock passcodes at their shared office space because of their perceived ties to WikiLeaks and its spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson. Ólafur told us over the phone that Morgunblaðið blocked all door access to his staff and only restored it after DataCells lawyer told them to do so. “When it was made clear that they had done illegal things“, in reference to locking the door, says the COO, “I had to threaten them with a lawsuit, so they finally opened up on Friday.”
WikiLeaks Spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson confirms this account. Speaking to The Grapevine, Kristinn said that Morgunblaðið performed an “illegal action of locking a company out of their own offices.” He deemed these activities “outrageous”.
After DataCell’s legal representation contacted Morgunblaðið to confront them with how they performed illegal activities and could face litigation, DataCell could once again access their offices. “It’s very difficult to perform our daily business practices because of Morgunblaðið,” Ólafur told us over the phone. The difficulty stems from last week’s reported sighting of the WikiLeaks representative at their offices at Hádegismóar 2.
“It all boils down to the fact that I spent half a day at a meeting with DataCell last month, where we were discussing our lawsuits and legal battles,” says Kristinn, referencing previous accounts that Morgunblaðið owners wanted DataCell to move.“They thought WikiLeaks were moving into the building,” said Ólafur, “so they really wanted us out, using all kinds of strange tactics, [like] harassing my staff and trying to make life difficult for me.”
Reaching Morgunblaðið’s owners was not possible after repeated attempts for comment to confirm whether or not an illegal break in occured. Björn Thors, the technician who made modifications to the locks, was available to speak. When asked if there was a potential connection to WikiLeaks in this situation, Björn added, “To WikiLeaks? No. Well, if there was, that might be something that Óskar [Magnússon, Director of Morgunblaðið] might know about, and not me. “
“I think you should ask our Director about this,” he continued, “the owner of the house [Klasi, the company that manages Morgunblaðið and DataCell’s shared quarters] told me to make modifications, or the agreement was to make modification to certain doors, that’s about it.”
He said that the modification did not prevent DataCell from getting inside except at certain hours. “They could not get in after 6 o’clock,” he added, “because according to the contract, they were supposed to use the front door, and it was the responsibility of Klasi to make facilities for that, not Morgunblaðið. This was the agreement between Klasi and DataCell.”
Björn made mention of Ólafur Sigurvinsson’s sentiment as well.
“According to what I understand, Ólafur wasn’t very happy about the situation, but I don’t think he was looking at it the right way. I don’t know what Ólafur has been saying in connection with Klasi.”
A representative from Klasi remarked: “These are two lease takers from us who are in some discussion on common issues.” He said that he had good relations with both companies and that there are some problems, as reported in the press, but that Klasi is not a part of them. “Those guys have the information, not me,” continued the representative. This leaves the question of whether Morgunblaðið has the power to change DataCells codes unanswered.
The situation has a connection to WikiLeaks’ Cablegate situation. “From the beginning they had been very sceptical because we worked for WikiLeaks, and we have been working for [them] for the last maybe two years or so,” said Ólafur, who then went on to detail how they were also “blocked by Visa and Mastercard” since December 2010.
On Jul 14 2011, Kristinn and WikiLeaks’ editor Julian Assange announced at a press conference that DataCell and WikiLeaks would file a complaint with the European Commission, protesting how the organisations had been “attacked through legal and illegal means” since last December. Julian described how WikiLeaks had lost “90 percent of our revenues as a result of the Visa/Mastercard attack.” He then said, “It is not a matter for these companies, operating in Europe, operating in Australia, operating in Iceland, to enforce unwritten rules of U.S. foreign policy.”
This affected DataCell’s credit card processing apparatus as well, says Ólafur. “DataCell is not able to access credit cards for any services, not only for WikiLeaks, but for our hosting services.” Since the release of 250,000 U.S. Embassy diplomatic cables, Visa Europe and Mastercard Europe have stopped processing payments from DataCell. According to the European Commission complaint, DataCell cannot provide data centre, hosting and software development services over the internet/online to customers abroad because “in practice it is close to impossible to carry out this kind of business if customers are not able to pay for the services rendered by means of an international payment card.” The European Commission will issue its preliminary findings in October.
With WikiLeaks’ revenue stream in jeopardy, the organisation is using diverse methods to ensure revenue streams. With credit and debit card processing operations from companies such as DataCell suspended, currently they are turning to other means, such as auctioning coffee, computers and secret cables, to advance their cause.
As for DataCell, they are “still considering moving away from Morgunblaðið.”