Civil Liberties

Private Surveillance Company Denies Bugging Ecuadorian Embassy in London



Earlier this week, Reason reported on a scandalous discovery made by the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Staff at the embassy found microphones planted in one of the offices. Ecuador said it would announce on Tuesday who was responsible for the bugging.

"We have reason to believe that the bugging was carried out by a company called the Surveillance Group Limited," said Ricardo Patino, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, at a press conference in Quito, Ecuador. According to Patino, the company is "one of the UK's biggest private investigation and undercover surveillance companies." The minister presented photographs of the devices and explained that they could be turned on remotely with a cell phone. Patino also requested that the British government join Ecuador in conducting an investigation to determine the extent of the surveillance.

Timothy Young, the CEO of Surveillance Group Limited, denied Patino's claims. A press release posted Thursday on the Surveillance Group's site states:

We have this morning heard an accusation the source of which is apparently Ricardo Patino, the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister suggesting that we have bugged the Ecuadorian Embassy. This is completely untrue. The Surveillance Group do not and have never been engaged in any activities of this nature. We have not been contacted by any member of the Ecuadorian Government and our first notification about this incident was via the press this morning. This is a wholly untrue assertion.

The Worcester-based company boasts elsewhere on its site that it "combine[s] the practices, skills and experience of Special Forces, Police and commercial surveillance to create an entirely new form of surveillance. They also lay claim to a worldwide network of surveillance teams: "We employ teams in cutting-edge surveillance work across the UK and with teams strategically placed in Europe and Canada."

The microphones were discovered in electric outlets in the office of Ana Alban. Although they were found in Mid-June during a diplomatic visit, Patino previously explained that the Ecuadorian government decided not to make the information public until this week in order to avoid further confusion and tension. His traveled to the embassy to meet with Julian Assange, who received political asylum from Ecuador and has been living in the London embassy for over a year. Patino also met with British Foreign Minister, William Hague, to discuss potential ways of resolving the tensions that have been growing between Ecuador and the UK over the last year because of Assange's presence. London maintains a constant police presence around the embassy and intends to arrest and extradite Assange if he sets foot on British ground.