Ecuador spent £3.7m to protect WikiLeaks’ Assange
LONDON: Ecuador spent more than £3.7 million (R62m) protecting and supporting Julian Assange after he took refuge at its London embassy, secret files have revealed.
A top-level intelligence operation was established to monitor the activities of Scotland Yard, visitors and Assange.
Undercover private security staff recorded in minute detail the movements of police officers guarding the Knightsbridge building, documents disclosed. And they listed details of visitors including ex-UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, actress Pamela Anderson, activists, lawyers and journalists. Investigators allegedly discovered the WikiLeaks founder hacked into the embassy’s computer network and set up his own satellite link.
Assange, 46, claimed asylum in 2012 after losing a legal battle to bar his extradition to Sweden, where he faced claims of rape and sexual assault.
The outspoken Australian has remained in the building ever since, making his home in cramped quarters with the aid of a running machine and sun lamp.
Ecuador even considered appointing Assange to the UN in a desperate bid to get him out, the files said. Officials believed the move would give him diplomatic immunity and enable him to escape without arrest.
The spy operation was revealed in documents from Ecuador’s intelligence agency Senain, obtained by The Guardian. Over five years, the South American country put at least £3.7m into a secret intelligence budget to protect Assange and keep him under surveillance. Investigators hired a £2 800-a-month flat around the corner as a command post. The operation was approved by the then Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa, it was claimed. But the London-based ambassador only found out about it when he received a council tax demand for the secret flat.
The Metropolitan Police spent more than £12m guarding the embassy around the clock until 2015, when officers were pulled out.
Although he no longer faces a live extradition warrant, he is wanted for breaching bail. Assange fears he could be sent to the US and accused of treason if held. – Daily Mail