Spanish security company spied on Julian Assange in London for the United States
Spain’s High Court is investigating the director of UC Global S. L. and the activities of his company, which had been hired to protect the Ecuadorian embassy in the English capital
Undercover Global S. L., the Spanish defense and private security company that was charged with protecting the Ecuadorian embassy in London during the long stay there of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, spied on the cyberactivist for the US intelligence service. That’s according to statements and documents to which EL PAÍS have had access. David Morales, the owner of the company, supposedly handed over audio and video to the CIA of the meetings Assange held with his lawyers and collaborators. Morales is being investigated for this activity by Spain’s High Court, the Audiencia Nacional.
The secret probe is the consequence of a criminal complaint filed by Assange himself
The judicial investigation into the director of UC Global S. L. and the activities of his company were ordered by a judge named José de la Mata, and they began weeks after EL PAÍS published videos, audios and reports that show how the company spied on the meetings that the cyberactivist held in the embassy.
The secret probe is the consequence of a criminal complaint filed by Assange himself, in which he accuses Morales and the company of the alleged offenses involving violations of his privacy and the secrecy of his client-attorney privileges, as well as misappropriation, bribery and money laundering. The director of UC Global S. L. has not responded to calls from this newspaper in order to confirm his version of events.
Morales, a former member of the military who is on leave of absence, stated both verbally and in writing to a number of his employees that, despite having been hired by the government of then-Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, he also worked “for the Americans,” to whom he allegedly sent documents, videos and audios of the meetings that the Australian activist held in the embassy. “We are playing in another league. This is the first division,” he told his closest colleagues after attending a security fair in the US city of Las Vegas in 2015 where he supposedly made his first American contacts.
Despite the fact that the Spanish firm – which is headquartered in the southern city of Jerez de la Frontera – was hired by Senain, the Ecuadorian intelligence services, Morales called on his employees several times to keep his relationship with the US intelligence services a secret.
The owner of UC Global S. L. ordered a meeting between the head of the Ecuadorian secret service, Rommy Vallejo, and Assange to be spied on, at a time when they were planning the exit of Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy using a diplomatic passport in order to take him to another country. This initiative was eventually rejected by Assange on the basis that he considered it to be “a defeat,” that would fuel conspiracy theories, according to sources close to the company consulted by this newspaper.
Morales called on his employees to keep his relationship with the US intelligence services a secret
The meeting took place on December 21, 2017 in the meeting room of the diplomatic building and was recorded both on video and audio by cameras installed by Morales’ employees. A small number of people, among whom were the Australian’s lawyers, were aware of the plan. Hours after the meeting, the US ambassador informed the Ecuadorian authorities about the plan, and the next day, December 22, the US put out an international arrest warrant for Assange.
“It is absurd to spy on who has hired you if you are not going to hand that material over to another country,” said a source close to UC Global S. L. This newspaper has had access to the video and the audio of the aforementioned meeting.
Cameras and external access for the US
After the installation of new video cameras at the beginning of December 2017, Morales requested that his technicians install an external streaming access point in the same area so that all of the recordings could be accessed instantly by the United States. To do this, he requested three channels for access: “one for Ecuador, another for us and another for X,” according to mails sent at the time to his colleagues. When one of the technicians asked to contact “the Americans” to explain the way that they should access some of the spying systems installed in the embassy, Morales would always be evasive with his answers.
Morales ordered his workers to install microphones in the embassy’s fire extinguishers and also in the women’s bathroom, where Assange’s lawyers, including the Spaniard Aitor Martínez and his closest collaborators, would meet for fear of being spied on. The cyberactivist’s meetings with his lawyers, Melynda Taylor, Jennifer Robinson and Baltasar Garzón, were also monitored.
The UC Global S. L. team was also ordered by its boss to install stickers that prevented the windows of the rooms that the WikiLeaks founder used from vibrating, allegedly to make it easier for the CIA to record conversations with their laser microphones. They also took a used diaper that from a baby that was on occasions taken to visit the activist in order to determine if the child was his by a close collaborator.
The former military man also planted microphones in a number of decorative elements inside the embassy, which were photographed for their reproduction in Spain. He also wanted to install them in the room used by “the guest,” as Assange was referred to in his reports, but some of his workers, concerned over the illegality of these jobs, warned him that they could be discovered. “The WikiLeaks founder was obsessed with being spied on,” a former employee of the company said.
Morales ordered his workers to install microphones in the embassy’s fire extinguishers and also in the women’s bathroom
The spying on Assange increased after Lenin Moreno came to power in Ecuador. At that time, Morales regularly flew to New York and Washington, this newspaper has managed to confirm. Among the UC Global S. L. client list is Sheldon Adelson and his gaming company Las Vegas Sands. For years the Spanish company has been providing security for the business magnate’s yacht when it is in Mediterranean waters. This job is usually carried out personally by Morales himself.
Adelson has a close friendship with US President Donald Trump and is one of the main donors to the Republican Party. Among his security personnel is a former CIA chief. In 2018 an investigation by The New York Times revealed that Julian Assange became a target for CIA spying under the mandate of former director Mike Pompeo. Official sources admitted to the US newspaper that WikiLeaks was being investigated in search of alleged links between its founder and Russian intelligence.
Spying under the mandate of Lenin Moreno
The espionage against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange increased under the government of the current Ecuadorian president, Lenin Moreno, who recently handed Assange over to the British authorities. The Ecuadorian government has denied these accusations and instead accuses Assange of having created a "spying center" in the embassy.
Rafael Correa, Moreno's predecessor in the role, was the person who offered the Australian refuge in his country's London embassy and granted him nationality. In July of this year the owner of UC Global S. L. declined to respond to this newspaper about the alleged spying on Julian Assange. "I cannot comment on anything that we did there, I can't give any details," he said via telephone. "We have our ethical and moral rules and none of them were violated."
David Morales, a former member of the military, created his company in 2008 inspired by Blackwater, the US private security multinational that supported the US army in a number of conflicts including those in Afghanistan and Iraq. One of the first contracts that his company secured was to provide security in Europe for two of Rafael Correa's daughters during his time in office. He later secured the contract for providing security at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
In April, the government of Lenin Moreno expelled Assange from that embassy, where he had been living since 2012. After his expulsion and arrest by the British authorities, the United Kingdom authorized the judicial process to hand the WikiLeaks founder over to the US justice system. The US wants Assange extradited and is leveling 18 charges, including computer misuse and the unauthorized disclosure of national defense information regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The cyberactivist could be facing a sentence of up to 175 years in prison.
English version by Simon Hunter.