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WikiLeaks Lost $50 Million Over Payment Block, Assange Says

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WikiLeaks lost more than $50 million in potential donations after Visa Europe, MasterCard Inc. and American Express Co. blocked payments to the anti-secrecy group, according to its founder Julian Assange.

Assange said WikiLeaks and its payment-services provider DataCell want European Union antitrust regulators to reconsider a preliminary decision not to probe claims that the blockade by the card networks violated competition rules.

WikiLeaks drew condemnation from the U.S government for posting thousands of classified documents on its website, including U.S. embassy communications and a military video of a July 2007 helicopter attack in Iraq that killed a Reuters television cameraman and his driver.

"The economic blockade, to me, extends out of the reaction to our publications in 2010 and 2011 from the U.S. military," Assange told reporters in Brussels via video call from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he sought asylum in June to avoid extradition to Sweden on allegations of rape and sexual molestation. "We have lost at least $50 million."

DataCell's complaint from last year "doesn't merit further investigation because it is unlikely that any infringement of EU competition rules could be established," Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for the Brussels-based European Commission, said by e- mail.

DataCell hasn't been blocked from accepting card payments for its own services or for others except WikiLeaks, Colombani said, adding the EU will make a final decision after considering DataCell's response.

Andreas Fink, chief executive officer of DataCell, said in an e-mail that every credit-card processor the company contacted "rejected us due to our processing for WikiLeaks."

Philipp Bruchert, a spokesman for MasterCard in Brussels, and Mark Hooper, a spokesman for Visa Europe in London, declined to comment. A representatives for American Express declined to immediately comment.

Ecuador granted Assange diplomatic asylum saying he is the victim of political persecution. The move set off a diplomatic spat with Britain which refuses to grant him safe passage out of the country.

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