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25 Apr, 2014 18:48

Assange stakeout costs Londoners $9 mn

Assange stakeout costs Londoners $9 mn

Guarding the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where Julian Assange has sought political asylum, has cost the Metropolitan Police £5.3 million ($9 million), officers have had the place staked out around the clock since June 2012.

A freedom of information request by the British media to London’s Metropolitan Police estimates the cost of policing the Ecuadorian embassy between June 2012 and December 2013 at £5.3 million, including £4.4 million ($7.3 million) going on police pay, while £900,000 ($1.5 million) was spent paying officers overtime.

The cost to the London taxpayer is just under £10,000 ($17,000) a day. At any time of the day or night, there are three officers stationed outside the embassy, ready to arrest Assange if he tries to make a run for it – or pops out for a pint of milk.

The 42-year old WikiLeaks founder is wanted for questioning in Sweden for allegedly sexually assaulting two women in Stockholm in 2010.

Assange denies the charges but will not travel to Sweden to be questioned because he says the charges are politically motivated for his work with WikiLeaks and he will be extradited to the US. WikiLeaks enraged Washington by publishing thousands of leaked diplomatic cables in 2010.

Baroness Jenny Jones, deputy chair of the Police and Crime Committee at the London Assembly, has said the situation should not be allowed to go on indefinitely, saying the huge costs it should be borne by the national government, not by Londoners.

But Assange could potentially stay in his Knightsbridge bolt hole until 2022, when the statute of limitations on his extradition expires.

“It is complete madness when we are struggling to keep police officers on the beat. The cost is falling on the London taxpayers as a net police cost. He could stay there for years,” Jones said, as quoted by the London Evening Standard.

Earlier this month, Swedish MPs called for prosecutors to travel to London to interview Assange at the embassy, and that they should accept that Assange won’t be leaving under his own will.