Policing Assange Costs UK Taxpayers $8 million

Since WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange took refuge in the Embassy of Ecuador in London in 2012, the British government has spent $8 million on keeping a close watch on him.
By @iamansaray |
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    In this Feb. 1, 2012 file photo, Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, arrives at the Supreme Court in London. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)

    Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, arrives at the Supreme Court in London. (AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

    WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been holed up inside the Embassy of Ecuador in London since 2012. The British government has been keeping close tabs on the whistleblower, spending a whopping $16,000 a day on security measures.

    In December 2010, Assange was arrested in the United Kingdom on a European Union-wide warrant issued by Sweden, where two women accused him of rape and sexual assault. He stayed in the U.K. on bail, then in 2012, he took refuge at the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden.

    Since he entered the embassy, the security measures in place — which would enable police to arrest Assange if he steps foot outside of the embassy — have created an $8 million bill footed by British taxpayers.

    At 3 Hans Crescent in the posh Knightsbridge district of London, Assange occupies a 15 square meter space cluttered with computers and electronic gadgets. Embassy staff also offered him a tiny office with a corner fireplace that’s blocked by a table with a Mac and computer monitors, Paris Match reported last month.

    “I’ve got nothing I can do but work. To be able to withstand the attacks of which I’m the target, you have to be very concentrated, have to exercise a lot of self-discipline. In this small space of mine here, I’m very well organized,” Assange told Paris Match.

    Even though he’s working, the whistleblower’s many supporters see his living conditions in the embassy as a virtual prison.

    Assange has dedicated all of his time to WikiLeaks and advocating for open government — activities that have made him a target for both British and American authorities. He ran into problems with both governments after releasing confidential diplomatic cables in 2010. Since then, he has been targeted by the Pentagon and the White House, as well as hit with financial blocks by Visa, PayPal, MasterCard and Bank of America.

    After WikiLeaks published it first documents about U.S. military activities in Afghanistan in 2010, Assange faced an international arrest warrant from a Swedish prosecutor on rape and sexual assault allegations lodged by two women. He said both were “consensual relationships.”

    If arrested, the British government plans to extradite Assange to Sweden, where he will face allegations brought by two women in Stockholm in 2010. Assange claims the allegations are part of a smear campaign against him and WikiLeaks, and he and many of his supporters believe Sweden will send him to U.S. to face trial for distributing and publishing massive amounts of highly-confidential documents on his website.

    Assange denies all allegations and continues to stress that he was framed by both the U.K. and U.S., but until one side gives in, he’s essentially stuck in the embassy.

    “We all have a feeling … that this is a situation that has to be solved. It’s no good for anyone to have the case stuck,” Ecuador’s Ambassador to London Juan Falconi Puig told Reuters. “But the first step will be to have the questioning. Unless we have the questioning, he may stay at the embassy as long as he needs.”

     

    “Ludicrous” and “madness”

    In recent weeks, British tabloids have questioned their government about its spending $16,000 a day to monitor and police the Ecuadorian Embassy — a figure that continues to escalate. From June 2012 to March this year, Scotland Yard’s bill for keeping an eye on Assange has cost British taxpayers about $8 million. According to political observers, Assange’s 22-month stay is having a knock-on effect on government spending.

    “According to figures obtained by LBC under the Freedom of Information Act, the Metropolitan Police spent £5.9m on policing the building in South Kensington to the end of March,” LBC Radio reported late last month. “Taking into account the 25 days since those figures, the actual amount spent by the force is estimated to be £6.06m.” (6.06 million pounds is equal to about $10.26 million.)

    The London Metropolitan Police have maintained around-the-clock surveillance, and financial records released by police estimate that 900,000 pounds (about $1.5 million) has been spent on overtime pay for officers.

    Baroness Jenny Jones, deputy chair of the Police and Crime Committee at the London Assembly, described the huge cost as “ludicrous.”

    The statute of limitations on Assange’s extradition request reportedly expires in 2022. If he stays in the embassy until then, it could cost the British government about $60 million.

    “It is absolute madness. I have been asking the MET questions about this because clearly at the moment the cost is falling on the London taxpayers as a net police cost,” Jones said.

    “I have been asking if the Government is going to pay. The Met is apparently trying to claim back some of the money, but of course it is still the taxpayer who is paying for it,” she said. “It is complete madness when we are struggling to keep police officers on the beat.”

    Jones also suggested that the Metropolitan Police should just “walk away” from the situation. “I do understand the legal ramifications of the case, but the fact is this is a complete nonsense.”

    Meanwhile, British taxpayers are not pleased that the government continues to monitor an individual taking refuge in an embassy — at great cost to taxpayers — while local communities need police attention.

    “Hard-pressed families will be furious that the bill for guarding the Embassy is so enormous,” said John O’Connell, director of the TaxPayer’s Alliance. “Perhaps the Met doesn’t have a choice but taxpayers would much rather see police out on the beat and preventing crime in local communities, not stood outside a plush embassy in Knightsbridge.”

     

    Embassy welcomes Sweden

    In April, Ambassador Falconi suggested that Assange could stay in the embassy indefinitely, protected by the government’s extended asylum, if Sweden is not prepared to break the deadlock by sending prosecutors to interrogate him at the embassy.

    “At the moment the case seems to be stuck,” Falconi told Reuters. “It’s the Swedish. If they want to move on the case it’s as simple as the Sweden prosecutor (having) the questioning at the embassy.”

    “Anyone from Sweden would be very welcome at the embassy to have the questioning and they can move on the case,” he added.

    Though Assange’s case has created a strain between Britain and Ecuador, Falconi stressed that the situation does not benefit any party involved and that Ecuador only wants to protect Assange’s human rights.

    “For Ecuador it’s a matter of principles, that’s why Ecuador gives the protection,” Falconi told Reuters.

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      • guest

        isn’t scary how government can do anything they want?

      • guest

        it’s so easy to frame him for rape. All it takes is two paid or volunteers to say that they were raped by him. People say that if he’s innocent that he would give himself up. What are you crazy? no matter how innocent he is, they are going to make him look guilty.

      • Arbed121

        Can anyone understand this statement by the Swedish Prosecution Authority as to why they refuse to conduct the preliminary questioning of Assange in London? I can’t make head nor tail of it. It seems to have no coherent logic to it at all.

        http://www.news100.se/news/prosecutor-ny-has-chosen-not-to-have-hearings-with-assange-in-london-4451289

        A few LOLs in it, though. The prosecutor refuses to take part in a televised debate about her reasons for not questioning Assange, giving the reason as “on behalf of both the suspect and the plaintiffs, and because the need of confidentiality in the preliminary investigation”. I mean, really, the gall of it when it is the Prosecution Authority itself which illegally released Assange’s name to the press.

        Note that she does finally admit her investigation is altogether “preliminary” and dependent on all sorts of “eventual future assessments or decisions that may be caused by developments in the case”. Yeah, developments such as actually asking someone who has been accused of sexual allegations of a he said/she said nature for their side of the story… I hope UK taxpayers will be compensated not only for the $16m they’ve been forced to spend on guarding Assange on this woman’s behalf but also the cost of three UK trials they’ve had to stump up for because she abused due process to issue Interpol Red Notices and European Arrest Warrants instead of using the proper MLA channels to give BOTH sides of the alleged events a fair and equal hearing.

      • Robert Bessares

        A war criminal like Pinochet is allowed safe passage but whistleblowers are viewed as terrorist’s which only proves that criminals are calling the shots.

        • http://www.facebook.com/anthony.carl.caudill Anthony Caudill

          What else can be made of the photo showing Exxon’s CEO and Putin shaking hands? It’s an international conspiracy of moolah.

      • Ray

        there is no justifiable reason for the Police to be there. Mr Assange is the victim

        • http://www.google.com/search?q=penghu&hl=en&client=safari&rls=en&prmd=imvns&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=L8bYTq-CKIrGmQW9u7TxCw&ved=0CGoQsAQ&biw=1280& Pescadorean

          Mr Assange is the victim if he’s innocent, but a criminal if he has committed the serious offences he’s been charged with. Send him to court in Sweden, and let justice take its course.

          • Arbed121

            He’s not been charged. He has only been given the opportunity to talk to police about 1 out of 4 of the allegations so far. Even Sweden does not believe in charging someone for something without talking to them about it first. The Sweden prosecutor repeatedly refused to question him about the other three allegations before Assange left Sweden five weeks later, and refused three proffered dates for him to return for questioning in the following month. Since then, she has turned down every single suggestion to question: by video, by skype, at an embassy (Australian, Swedish, Ecuadorian) – all of which are entirely routine methods. She’s really, really keen NOT to question him in fact. Why do you think that might be?

          • guest

            like Sweden court is going to be fair. they are trying to fry him and you want him to give himself up? there is no such thing as justice.

          • SiMoebus

            It is correct that Assange has not been formally charged, but that is meaningless in relationship to law enforcement. Assange through his apologist seem to believe that an accused or a suspect in a criminal investigation can dictate how that investigation should be conducted.

            Assange’s lawyers have challanged every aspect of the investigation, and have failed to demonstrate that Assange’s rights are being violated. The prosecutors wanting Assange to return to Sweden by issuing an arrest warrant is clear that they are “really keen on questioning” him.

            It can’t be understated that Assange’s apologist are unwilling to accept the seriousness of Assane’s legal problem. All the false arguments that they use, doesn’t diminish that Assange needs to be returned to Sweden.

      • cruz_ctrl

        I am embarrassed to say I’m a native Brit. Please let this man live his life in peace.

      • SiMoebus

        There is no reason for the UK for turning its back on enforcing its law and an extradition order. Nor, any reason to allow Assange to walk away from his legal obligations. If families are upset about the cost send the bill to Assange or Ecuador.

      • fbxl5

        Does anybody really believe that Julian Assange is going to simply walk out of that embassy and allow himself to the rendered to the United States to be imprisoned for the rest of his life? Is there anybody left that believes that isn’t exactly what would happen if he stepped foot outside that door? The farce about sexual misconduct in Sweden is over, no thinking person believed it in the first place. Snowden disclosed the symbiotic relationship between the U.S. and the U.K. Nobodies buying that ridiculous story anymore! The longer this continues, the less credibility these three governments have.

        • http://www.google.com/search?q=penghu&hl=en&client=safari&rls=en&prmd=imvns&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=L8bYTq-CKIrGmQW9u7TxCw&ved=0CGoQsAQ&biw=1280& Pescadorean

          “The farce about sexual misconduct in Sweden is over, no thinking person believed it in the first place” So have you reviewed the evidence put forward by the plaintiffs? Of course you have not. What you really mean is “my gut feeling tells me what any pseudo-liberal readily wants to believe”.

          Just because he’s a whistleblower, doesn’t make him a saint. If there were other whistleblowers out there aside form Wikileaks, then he might deserve a bit more credibility. As it is, he’s a monopoly, and a very non-transparant one at that, which is just the same mentality as any totalitarianism. He should be sent to Sweden for trial.

          • Arbed121

            “So have you reviewed the evidence put forward by the plaintiffs?”

            I have. In detail. Did you know that the forensics laboratory found no DNA at all – neither male nor female – on a condom submitted as evidence that it had been deliberately ‘burst’ during sex? That item is the ‘evidence’ to support Allegation No. 2 on the European Arrest Warrant – sexual molestation. Did you know that the forensics report containing this extraordinary finding was sent to the prosecutor a month BEFORE she wrote out that European Arrest Warrant?

            The whole case is a stitch-up, believe me.

          • roycerson

            You have no idea what’s going on here. If you did, you would know Sweden doesn’t intend to try him, they haven’t charged him with anything. They only want him for “questioning”. No one in the history of the world has ever been extradited for questioning. You would have said: “He should be sent to Sweden for questioning”, if you had bothered to understand the very simplest facts.

            • SiMoebus

              Assange’s lawyers put forward that “Julian Assange is only wanted for questioning” as one of their main objects to the warrant during the extradition hearings. However, Sweden convinced the court that legal proceedings have began against Assange. Anyone who has followed the extradition hearings know that.

              No one is saying “He should be sent to Sweden for question.” What is being said “He should be sent to Sweden to continue the process that has already started.”