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British company: We didn't bug Ecuador's embassy

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 3:39 PM EDT, Thu July 4, 2013
Ecuador says a hidden recording device was found inside its embassy in London.
Ecuador says a hidden recording device was found inside its embassy in London.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • CEO: Accusations that a company bugged Ecuador's embassy are "completely untrue"
  • Ecuador says a hidden recording device was found inside its London embassy
  • The "spy microphone" was placed in an electrical outlet, the foreign minister says
  • He calls for British authorities to assist in Ecuador's investigation

(CNN) -- Ecuador's government says it has well-founded suspicions that a private security company bugged its London embassy.

But Surveillance Group Limited, whose website boasts ties with British law enforcement agencies and European financial institutions, denied that accusation on Thursday.

"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," Timothy Young, the company's CEO, said in a written statement. "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 was via the press this morning."

Patino told reporters Wednesday that Ecuador had "founded suspicions" that the British company was tied to a secret recording device discovered inside an electrical outlet in the ambassador's office last month.

But he did not detail what led Ecuadorian authorities to suspect the company's involvement.

The foreign minister called for British authorities to help investigate the incident.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks from the Ecuadorian Embassy
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks from the Ecuadorian Embassy

In addition to serving as an office for Ecuadorian officials abroad, the embassy has also been home for more than a year to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who received asylum from Ecuador in August and risks arrest if he leaves the property.

The revelation comes amid worldwide debate over U.S. surveillance, including reports that the National Security Agency planted bugs in diplomatic offices.

It also comes as Ecuador plays a key role in the global guessing game over the next steps for Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who is on the run after admitting that he leaked classified documents about U.S. surveillance programs.

Snowden fueling U.S.-Ecuador row

Snowden has asked for asylum from Ecuador and 20 other countries.

Patino said on Wednesday that his country was still evaluating the request.

Asked whether Assange's presence inside the Ecuadorian Embassy had opened the building to more risks, Patino acknowledged that the WikiLeaks founder's presence had brought greater attention to the embassy.

"Surely, there are risks, yes ... but we are willing to run them when it comes to defending rights," he said.

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