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Police call off operation outside Julian Assange’s refuge after costs reach R258 million


London’s Metropolitan Police Services (MPS) has called off the security contingent outside the Ecuadorian Embassy, where Julian Assange has been holed up for the better part of three years.

According to the Met , the operation has cost in excess of £12.6 million (R258 million).

The Wikileaks founder sought and was granted asylum at at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face rape accusations. Police have effectively been lying in wait for him outside the Embassy since then.

Last month Swedish prosecutors effectively ran out of time to question and prosecute Assange on the charges of sexual misconduct but the allegations of rape remain. This means that Assange can still be arrested and extradited to Sweden if he leaves the Ecuadorian Embassy.

In a statement The Met said, “The operation to arrest Julian Assange does however continue and should he leave the Embassy the MPS will make every effort to arrest him. However it is no longer proportionate to commit officers to a permanent presence.”

The BBC has reported that MPS has spent somewhere in the region of £7.1 – £21.6 million (R145 – R442 million) on normal pay for police guarding the embassy, £3.4 million (R69 million) in overtime pay and £2.1 million (R43 million) in indirect costs. According to the authorities the operation in its current form is no longer viable and it will investigate other avenues to continue the operation in another way.

The MPS concluded by pointing out that while committed to upholding the law, Assange is not the biggest threat to the city saying, “Like all public services, MPS resources are finite. With so many different criminal, and other, threats to the city it protects, the current deployment of officers is no longer believed proportionate.”

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