The Ecuadorian government has invested at least five million dollars (4.2 million euros) in an “espionage operation” to “protect” the Australian activist Julian Assange, a refugee since 2012 at the embassy of Ecuador in London, as revealed today the British newspaper The Guardian.
The newspaper has had access to secret documents indicating that Ecuador hired a security company and undercover agents to keep an eye on Assange’s visitors at the legation, embassy staff and even the British police.
“Assange’s daily activities”, his interactions with the embassy’s staff, his legal team and other visitors, were also recorded “with meticulous detail”, according to those documents.
The newspaper states that Ecuador baptized that project at first as “Operation Guest” and later as “Operation Hotel”
According to the British newspaper, the monthly expenses dedicated to the security of Assange, including works to gather intelligence information and “counterintelligence”, have amounted to an average of 66,000 dollars a month (55,600 euros).
Between June 2012 and August 2013, the device cost Ecuador 972,882 dollars (about 820,000 euros), according to documents belonging to the National Secretariat of Ecuadorian Intelligence (Senain) to which the newspaper has had access.
The intelligence agency used a budget for “special expenses” to install surveillance cameras in the embassy weeks before granting asylum to the founder of the WikiLeaks leak portal, according to that source.
A security firm was also hired to film all the activity at the embassy, according to the British newspaper.
That company put at their service a team to work for 24 hours, seven days a week, in the security of the legation, with continuous shifts of two people working at the same time.
The Guardian and Focus Ecuador investigation suggests that the operation had the support of the Ecuadorian president when Assange took refuge in the embassy, Rafael Correa, and the then foreign minister of the country, Ricardo Patiño.
The security team established by Ecuador asked all the Assange guests to leave their passport when entering the embassy, which served to create a “profile” of the visitor.
Quito came to make plans to help Assange escape the legation, fearing that the British authorities entered the embassy by force, according to The Guardian.
Among those projects, the possibility of removing Assange aboard a diplomatic vehicle, or appoint him representative of Ecuador in the United Nations (UN) to grant diplomatic immunity.
Last December, the Government of Ecuador granted him Ecuadorian nationality and asked for diplomatic status, something the British Foreign Ministry refused to do. (I)