The British taxpayer has footed a bill of £10 million and rising to police the Ecuadorian embassy where the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is avoiding extradition over sex crime allegations.
Mr Assange has claimed asylum in the embassy since June 2012 against his removal to Sweden, where he is wanted for allegedly sexually assaulting two women in Stockholm.
He is worried about personal and information security. His presence in the embassy means the Metropolitan Police has been forced to post a round-the-clock detail of officers to arrest Julian Assange should he leave the building in Knightsbridge. Scotland Yard has now confirmed the cost of the embassy operation reached £9 million by October, meaning the total estimated cost including a further three months of cover is now thought to have reached £10 million.
It equates to £10,500 for each of the 959 days Mr Assange has been holed up in the building, located behind Harrods department store. In August Mr Assange indicated he would “soon” leave the embassy but six months later he remains inside. The sum would have been enough to keep 343 police officers on the beat for a year. Information released by Scotland Yard to the LBC radio station under Freedom of Information laws showed the £9 million sum to the end of October included £7.3 million in police pay and £1.7 million in other "indirect" costs.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We remain as committed as ever to reaching a diplomatic solution to this situation. We are clear that our laws must be followed and Mr Assange should be extradited to Sweden. As ever, we look to Ecuador to help bring this difficult and costly situation to an end."
Stephen Greenhalgh, the deputy mayor for policing and crime in London, said: "It is an eye-watering amount of money. "We do need a diplomatic situation, but ultimately it is the taxpayer that foots the bill.” Mr Assange, 43, is alleged to have raped a woman known as SW, then aged 26, and committed other sexual offences against AA, a 31-year-old woman. The Australian claims that if he is extradited to Sweden, he will be sent on to the United States for questioning over WikiLeaks’ publishing of secret files which the authorities say have damaged national security. Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, said that he was frustrated with Mr Assange's actions.
Of course, the right thing for him to do is to do that and face justice and to face justice in a country where due process is well-established." Earlier WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has called the NSA’s espionage program “reckless and illegal” and has demanded Washington open an investigation into the claims.