Questions Surround the Free Assange Campaign’s Latest Fundraiser

Last Monday, the world was stunned to learn that Julian Assange had been released from Belmarsh prison after the High Court of London granted him bail. But, as he boarded a private jet out of London the following morning, he wasn’t home free yet. After a brief layover in Bangkok, he was scheduled to appear in a federal courtroom to accept a plea agreement he made with the U.S. government before continuing on to Canberra, Australia as a free man. 

Throughout the day, Assange’s wife, Stella, posted updates on her Twitter account and around 5:51 a.m. EST, she tweeted that he was preparing to leave Thailand after having safely landed in Bangkok for refueling. Before the plane had time to reach its next destination she publicly requested that the general public pay for the costs associated with her husband’s chartered flight aboard a 2017 Bombardier Global 6000 through a newly-created crowdfunding campaign.

The fundraiser lists a target goal of £520,000, which is approximately 658,941 in U.S. dollars, to cover the costs of the flight and “substantial funds to ensure [Julian Assange’s] recovery and well-being and safety upon his arrival.” 

The Bombardier Global 6000 that Assange chartered is hardly a cheap, little puddle jumper and it was paid for by the Australian government with the understanding that Assange would pay back the debt. According to some reports, he requested the private flight to avoid flying to the U.S. mainland but his wife gave this explanation, “[Assange] was not permitted to fly commercial airlines or routes to Saipan and onward to Australia.” The Washington Post gave a different account:

The U.S. government wasn’t willing to go as far as releasing him onto a commercial flight, and Assange wasn’t willing to let U.S. Marshals escorthim. So a compromise was struck: Assange would take a private plane to and from the island, escorted by an Australian ambassador.

And the website that both Stella and WikiLeaks later promoted on Twitter, gave no explanation whatsoever:

Julian Assange has embarked on flight VJT199 to Saipan. If all goes well it will bring him to freedom in Australia. But the flight comes at an enormous cost: Julian will owe USD 520,000 which he is obligated to pay back to the Australian government for the charter flight to Saipan and onward to Australia.

In addition, and after 14 years of detention, including five years in maximum security prison, Julian’s health is in dire need of recovery. We are launching an emergency appeal to seek donations to help him cover the flight debt and substantial funds to ensure his recovery and well-being and safety upon his arrival.

Twenty-two minutes after Stella initially tweeted about the fundraiser, WikiLeaks retweeted this Twitter post from @FreeAssangeNews that stated:

At no point did Stella or WikiLeaks post any receipts for the costs associated with the private flight, nor did anyone explain what exactly “recovery and well-being and safety” means, what it entails, and the costs involved because if there’s one audience they’re clearly targeting, it’s their own supporters, many of whom appear too naive, ignorant, or scared to ask any questions or demand simple proof before shelling out over half a million dollars.

While Assange was still traveling, WikiLeaks continued to post tweets about the fundraiser and then after the WikiLeaks founder landed on Saipan, they promoted it yet again by retweeting @richiemedhurt’s tweet:

Hours later, while her husband was still standing in front of a U.S. judge and hoping for the best, Stella took to Twitter once more to promote the fundraiser for the third time that day:

Wau Holland and the 8 BTC Donation

Meanwhile, in the midst of Assange’s travels, the Wau Holland Foundation released a statement clearly stating that they were guaranteeing the costs of the flight:

The WHS has so far spent a total of over 16 million euros on lawyers and campaigns; this does not include the costs of the flight to Australia chartered by the Australian government, which were guaranteed by the foundation.

Does this mean that Wau Holland signed on as a guarantor if Assange defaults on the payment, or they’re actually paying for it? They’ve been processing donations for WikiLeaks since 2009, so its not like Stella and WikiLeaks didn’t get the memo. Regardless, neither of them acknowledged the statement publicly. Rather, they continued asking for money long after Wau Holland’s statement was published.

In addition to that fun and buried news, around 10 p.m. that evening, the crypto community noticed that an 8 BTC ($500,000+) donation was sent to the bitcoin address listed on the website. This hasn’t been publicly addressed either by Stella or WikiLeaks. Again, they just kept pushing the fundraiser despite sources like Yahoo Finance, Forbes, Nasdaq and Cointelgraph reporting on the massive donation.

How Much Was the Charter? Pounds Sterling vs. U.S. Dollars

Hours after the 8 bitcoins were donated to Assange’s cause, WikiLeaks posted this on Twitter:

Uh huh. According to the website, Assange owes the Australian government 520,000 in U.S. dollars for the private jet and I quote, “Julian will owe USD 520,000 which he is obligated to pay back to the Australian government for the charter flight to Saipan and onward to Australia.” But, according to WikiLeaks’ tweet above, the jet cost £520,000 (pounds sterling), which, yes, is the same amount listed as the target goal on the new fundraising page but it equates to approximately $658,941 (U.S. dollars). Additionally, the donation page says that a substantial part of that  £520,000 is going to “ensure [Julian Assange’s] recovery and well-being and safety upon his arrival,” not the cost of the private jet.

So, did the flight cost 520,000 pound sterling or 520,000 U.S. dollars? A difference of almost $140,000 is a huge discrepancy and if Stella, Assange, and WikiLeaks don’t think so they’re welcome to write a check for that amount and send it to any of the thousands of families in America struggling to pay rent, feed their kids, or finance their insulin supply just to stay alive. Otherwise, I’m inclined to wish them a proper fuck off for what appears to be the usual grift coming out of this camp.

The day after the Wau Holland announcement and the 8 BTC donation, WikiLeaks continued to push the fundraiser, this time thirty minutes before Assange was scheduled to land in Australia:

Less than two hours later, they promoted the fundraiser again and then retweeted the same tweet later that morning. On June 27th, and after stating in the press that she wanted some privacy for her and her family, Stella continued to sit on social media asking for money:

Later that same day, WikiLeaks asked the public to pay for the “last half of the last leg of [Assange’s] journey” to Australia but by June 28th, the costs of the flight apparently no longer mattered and the fundraising became focused on Assange’s health:

They continued to push the health angle on June 29th, by retweeting this @FreeAssangeNews’ tweet, again, without clarifying what exactly Assange’s “recovery” entails and the costs involved. No one’s asking for detailed health records but for FFS give us something. At this point, it’s now four days after the Wau Holland statement and the 8 BTC donation and there’s been no mention or clarification from Stella or WikiLeaks.

AssangeDAO, The Clock, and Wau Holland

The 8 BTC may have come from Wau Holland but they haven’t confirmed it. Myself, like a few others, reached out to the foundation for clarification but haven’t received a response. Crypto attorney and core member of AssangeDAO, Silke Noah, tried to get some answers but didn’t appear to get any, at least not publicly.

Back in 2021-2022, Assange and digital artist, Pak, collaborated on an NFT collection called “Censored,” the first part of which was an auction for a singular work entitled “Clock,” that featured a “muted timer counting the number of days Assange has spent behind bars.” In February 2022, AssangeDAO was awarded the winning bid of $52.7 million after raising $59.5 million through Juicebox.

100% of the profits from the auction (16,593 ETH a.k.a. $52.7 million) went to Wau Holland specifically to help Assange with his legal defense thus it comes as no surprise that the foundation may have offered to pay for the costs associated with his flight to Saipan and his subsequent return to Australia. What the Clock auction also means is that since February 2022, Assange has had almost $53 million at his disposal (via Wau Holland) to fight his legal battles.

All proceeds from the sale of [Clock] were then sent to Wau Holland Foundation’s onchain address and periodically off-ramped to pay for legal fees. The foundation’s innovative spirit allowed this type of onchain activism to have an impact in the real world.”

Joshua Bate, core team member of AssangeDAO

Of course, the $53 million doesn’t include any other funds Stella Assange, WikiLeaks, Courage Foundation, Wau Holland etc. etc. etc. have raised over the years; the total value of WikiLeaks’ entire crypto war chest; or other monies coming in such as the approximate $7 million dollars awarded to WikiLeaks’ publishing company back in 2019. 

Wau Holland is now saying that they’ve spent over 16 million euros on attorneys, campaigns, PR firms, and even $600,000 to lobby the U.S. Department of Justice on Assange’s behalf but wouldn’t that leave approximately $37 million (U.S. dollars) available to pay for things like, say, a flight to Australia with a few detours along the way?  

According to Noa, Wau Holland’s wallet still contains $15 million from the Clock auction and “out of 16,593 Ether, an estimated 11,000 ETH worth $37 million has been spent on legal defense and campaigning.” 

[Noa’s] words point to the eye-watering amount of ETH donated through crowdfunding platform JuiceBox. A total of 17,422 ETH ($59.5 million) were raised, and according to Noa, it is estimated that more than 11,000 ETH ($37 million) was spent on his legal defense and general campaigning.

The remaining 4,400 ($15 million) remains in a multi-sig wallet operated by the Wau Holland Foundation, which has also been spearheading the efforts to free Assange.

Noa has been campaigning online for a “detailed accounting of how the funds were allocated,” but as of now nothing has materialized. Below is a snapshot of Wau Holland’s account which currently has a balance of $15,342,197.

A few days ago, The Sunday Times reported that WikiLeaks has amassed a fortune estimated to be worth $244 million. If true, that makes Stella and WikiLeaks’ pleas for money that much more grotesque. If not, it doesn’t particularly matter anyways because as of today the Wau Holland Foundation still has at least $15 million leftover from the auction that was allocated to Assange’s defense and more than enough to cover the cost of a private jet.

No one’s saying fraud has been committed (yet) but there are some serious, unanswered questions that journalists should be asking because when bad things happen to so-called good people that doesn’t give them a free ticket to defraud the public with impunity. What exactly happened here with the fundraiser, the actual costs associated with the chartered flight and Assange’s “recovery,” the lack of receipts, Wau Holland’s statement, and the 8 BTC donation? Where has all the money gone?

Headline Image “FREE ASSANGE. Urban Street Art With Political Sticker” by Markus Spiske

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