assange surveillance video embassy
© El Pais

Comment: The following is a machine translation of an El Pais article, with light editing for fluency. The original article can be found here.

The alleged extortionists, who ask for three million for images and conversations of the activist, are from Alicante

José Martín Santos, Pepe, a journalist sentenced to three years in prison for fraud, and three computer scientists from Alicante are the people who have in their possession images, videos and personal documents of the alleged espionage of Julian Assange, the cyberactivist who took refuge for seven years at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and handed over on April 16 to the British police. The police are investigating whether a supposed Spanish communication agency is behind the extortion of the Australian activist, 47 years old, who is asked for three million not to disseminate his images.

Spanish agents from the kidnapping and extortion section monitored José Martín Santos and three of his collaborators after they offered the recorded material during the last two years of their stay in the diplomatic legation of the founder of WikiLeaks, according to sources close to the investigation.

Images of Assange during his stay at the Embassy of Ecuador in London. El Pais Video

Assange has just filed a complaint against the alleged extortionists at the Audiencia Nacional, as well as against staff of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and members of the Ecuadorian security company Promsecurity who could have participated in the events. It accuses them of a long list of crimes: criminal organization, extortion in Spanish territory, crime against privacy, honor and against the secrecy of attorney-client communications. This security company replaced the Spanish Undercover Global S.L. when Lenín Moreno became president of Ecuador in 2017 and Assange lost the favor of this government, according to his lawyers.

It all started with a tweet published a few weeks ago announcing the availability to the highest bidder of documentation on Assange's life at the Embassy of Ecuador. The account holder's name was false, but the contact telephone number and e-mail address were used by Kristin Hrafnsson, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, to contact the sellers and check the veracity of the offer.

Pepe e-mailed him photographs of his computer in which files appeared about the communications of Baltasar Garzón, the cyberactivist's lawyer, with Assange, the packages he received, the appointments with his doctors, the passports of his visits, as well as transcripts of audios of his conversations.

"We have compromised material. If you do not buy it will be published," they warned in their emails

assange surveillance photos embassy
© El Pais
Camera angles spying on Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
The price was three million euros and if the offer was not accepted the videos and audios would begin to appear published in various media. If they wanted to pay they had to come to Spain to close the terms of the agreement. Hrafnsson asked for more proof of the material they had and Pepe impressed him by sending him a screenshot of a video where the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks with Assange appeared at a meeting at the embassy.

"None of this can come to light"
In the list of 103 files that the alleged extortionists offered to WikiLeaks for purchase, the number 75 reads: "Audio 1st Secretary says that none of this can come to light, or else Julian will take action against the embassy and the repercussion with the US it can be crucial, another audio where the 1st secretary says that we have to assure the employees of the security company because they are working clandestinely ".

File number 68 is titled: "Written to the newspaper EL PAÍS by Julian Assange to remove some cover images of the independentistas".

And the number 76 "Contract with lawyer".
He also sent legal notes from the personal file of Aitor Martínez, a lawyer in Garzón's office, who had had his defence strategy photographed during a recess at a hearing held at the diplomatic legation last December. In one of these notes, the finger of the person who photographed them appears, which, according to Assange's defense, would allow his identification.

The pearl of the files to convince Hrafnsson of the value of the material were several audio recordings of conversations the activist had with third parties and a folder with the WhatsApp title in which it is suspected that phone conversations of the lawyers were overheard when they visited the diplomatic headquarters and deposited them at the entrance. This would give credit to the alleged use of microphones inside the embassy, ​​something that the Government of Moreno has denied, and stands out in the lawsuit filed by Assange. Pepe asked to hold a meeting in Madrid to close the deal.

The meeting was held on April 2. The WikiLeaks editor had rented an apartment at number 11 Núñez Arce Street to which the vendors came. At 10 o'clock in the morning, according to the complaint, Pepe appeared accompanied by two people, whom he introduced as someone who spoke fluent English and a computer expert. He provided his real name, José Martín Santos, without revealing his status as a journalist and asked to change the place of the meeting for security reasons.

In the cafeteria of the Hotel Reina Victoria, in the Plaza de Santa Ana in Madrid, Pepe placed a computer on the table and informed Hrafnsson that a collaborator in Alicante would open by remote control the folders encrypted with the material. For three hours the editor of WikiLeaks and the Spanish friend who accompanied him, were wide-eyed after reviewing the 103 folders with videos, audios, private emails of lawyers and friends of Assange received during his stay at the Ecuadorian embassy.

In two meetings at the Reina Victoria hotel in Madrid, the chief editor of Wikileaks was stunned by the material available to them.
Material that, in the opinion of the cyber-activist's defense, would accredit the espionage to which he was subjected during his last two years of asylum. "At every corner of the embassy Julian Assange had been recorded, even in the most private areas," the lawsuit said.

That same afternoon, Hrafnsson, accompanied by Baltasar Garzón, filed a complaint against the alleged extortionists in the kidnapping and extortion section of the Police Crimes against Persons Brigade (UDEV). From there the editor of WikiLeaks called Pepe and they met again the next day. Hrafnsson recognized the journalist José Martín Santos from the album of suspects shown to him by the agents. Santos was news director of the municipal television of Altea.

At 7:00 PM on April 3, the second meeting was held in the same hotel. Again Pepe attended, accompanied this time with another computer expert course and two of the previous partners. Hrafnsson was accompanied by Aitor Martinez, the lawyer whose defence was photocopied in the Ecuadorian embassy. The police monitored the 30 minutes of the meeting, photographed and recorded their assistants.

Although the lawyer asked several times who had ordered to spy on Assange, the journalist, "the man who always took the lead," confessed that they had the material through people inside the embassy. "They said during Lenin Moreno's government, the embassy had given an order to gather all the information on Assange to report it to Ecuador," said one of the attendees. After Moreno's election, Ecuador imposed harsh restrictions on Assange's communications .

Six days later, the editor of WikiLeaks called a press conference in London in which he unveiled the blackmail carried out by "several Spaniards". Before breaking contact with Hrafnsson they sent him new emails in which they presented themselves as Agency 6, a supposed communication company from Alicante, and reduced their offer to 1.5 million. Days before they complained that they had noticed police surveillance and warned that they would "put the material under security" to avoid police action.

On the 10th, the vendors uploaded a video to YouTube where they showed their material with the watermark of Agency 6 and they presented themselves as investigative journalists who had compiled "thousands of videos and audios" with which they would denounce "a great lie called WikiLeaks. " In one of the tabs of Agency 6, photographs of Martin Santos and the three computer scientists appear, who the lawyer Aitor Martinez recognized as attending the two meetings in which the material was offered.

Assange's defense team believes that the creation of this website was "a cover" for the group to discover whether they were being watched by the police and having failed in their attempt to sell. This newspaper has tried unsuccessfully to contact Martin Santos and the three computer scientists to obtain their version.

The complaint explains that days later British media such as The Daily Mail have begun to broadcast videos about Assange's private life.

The evidence showing the espionage suffered by the WikiLeaks founder contrasts with the accusation of Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno who in an interview with the British newspaper The Guardian affirmed that Assange had turned the Ecuadorian headquarters in London into "an espionage center". He and his lawyers deny it and exhibit as evidence the blackmail to which he has been subjected.

Pepe, the informant convicted of fraud

José Martín Santos, the person who allegedly offered the recorded material of Julian Assange, was sentenced to three years in prison in 2007 for faking the theft of furniture from the journalist Encarna Sánchez's estate and for defrauding the owners of the house that was damaged.

The sentence of the Provincial Court of Alicante was upheld by the Supreme Court that denied the appeal of the director of the television Altea Te Ves. The ruling condemned the journalist for the crimes of damage, simulation and fraud.

Martín Santos set a fire to a house that he cared for a German couple in order to fake a robbery and collect the insurance. Among the material listed as stolen were valuable furniture from the inheritance of the radio announcer. The sentence forced him to pay the owners of the house 42,000 euros for damages and another 76,000 of which he stole.

The journalist was tried in 2017 for for hiding assets to avoid paying the amounts mentioned and creating a corporate network to avoid his obligations, according to the newspaper Información.

Martin Santos has been a regular collaborator in some local media in Alicante and directed the TV news Altea Te Ves under the direction of María José Ortiz, sister of the former mayor of that town.