LONDON, ENGLAND, UK (JULY 4, 2013) (ITN) - A British private surveillance company denied on Thursday (July 4) that it had bugged the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been living for over a year.Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino made the allegation against theSurveillance Group Ltd in Quito on Wednesday (July 3), adding that Ecuador would seek help from the British government to get to the bottom of the matter.
Patino has said the microphone was found in the office of Ambassador Ana Alban at the time of his visit to the embassy on June 16 to meet with Assange, who has been granted asylum by Ecuador but cannot make his way to that country.
Speaking outside the embassy on Thursday, Alban said she did not know how long the listening device had been in her office, but that it was "part of the business".
The Surveillance Group's CEO Timothy Young rejected Patino's allegations, saying he had only heard the allegations against the company on Thursday morning.
"This is completely untrue. The Surveillance Group do not have and have never been engaged in any activities of this nature. We've not been contacted by any member of the Ecuadorean government and our first notification about this incident was via the press this morning. This is a wholly untrue assertion," he told journalists.
The Foreign Office in London declined to comment.
Patino described the Surveillance Group as one of the biggest private investigation and undercover surveillance companies in the United Kingdom.
On its website, the company says it combines "the practices, skills and experience of special forces, police and commercial surveillance to create an entirely new form of surveillance".
Services on offer include digital forensics, corporate investigations, professional witness surveillance and intelligence reports, according to the company website.
Assange risks arrest if he steps out of the embassy because he has breached his bail terms in Britain. He sought refuge inside the embassy in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault.
The anti-secrecy website described the alleged bugging of the embassy as an example of "imperial arrogance" but did not elaborate.
The topic of covert state surveillance has been at the top of the global news agenda since a series of leaks last month by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden about secret U.S. and British espionage programmes.