Ecuador asks British government for help after bug is found in embassy
Ecuador has sought help from the UK after finding a microphone hidden in a power socket in its London embassy.
The news was announced on Wednesday by foreign minister Ricardo Patino. He held a press conference in Quito, confirming Ecuadorian technicians found the bug during a mid-June wiring review.
“Ecuador will request collaboration of the British government in investigating this issue to discover who is implicated in this espionage operation,” he said.
The news is significant, given that Julian Assange has sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy. Ecuador’s decision to protect the WikiLeaks founder is said to have weakened ties with Britain.
Assange has lived in the embassy for more than a year to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he would face charges of sexual assault.
After a meeting between Foreign Secretary William Hague and his Ecuadorian counterpart on June 17th, it appears no progress was made in reaching an agreement.
However, the purpose of the bug, according to Patino, was not to track the WikiLeaks founder directly, but rather listen to the conversations of ambassador Ana Alban.
“We have reason to believe that the bugging was carried out by The Surveillance Group Limited, one of the largest private investigation and covert surveillance companies in the United Kingdom,” he said.
The foreign office declined to comment immediately following the allegation. The prime minister’s spokesman said he did not comment on security issues.
Holding up a picture of the bug, the foreign minister outlined the system, which works with a SIM card and could be activated from any cellular or fixed-line phone.
WikiLeaks released a comment via its Twitter account earlier: “Sieging/bugging of Ecuador’s London embassy … Shows that imperial arrogance is the gift that keeps on giving.”
The Surveillance Group are yet to respond to the story.