From an answer to "Why is the British government so determined to arrest Julian Assange?":

And now someone can tell me why it is not unusual that a government pays millions of pounds to track a fugitive (give a counterexample, please)

Some people have been alleging that Assange has been singled out. Has the UK spent million of pounds tracking a fugitive or a group of fugitives other than Assange? Or is this something that's only happened to Assange?

  • 1
    You might want to rephrase to avoid the terrorist hunting. Sophisticated organized crime also might require long observations.
    – user9389
    Commented Mar 10, 2018 at 0:04
  • Does terrorist hunting count? Commented Mar 10, 2018 at 10:23
  • 2
    Having given that specific answer: Assange was charged with sexual assault until 2017 und after this was revoked, is now charged with skipping bail. Current maximum sentence for skipping bail before a Magistrate Court is three months. So for a valid counterexample I would accept a common criminal who committed an offense punishable up to three months where the UK government spent equal or more than the equivalent of 10 million pounds today to track/get him. Commented Mar 10, 2018 at 13:41
  • 2
    @ThorstenS. but you could then argue than only the costs incurred after the sexual assault charges were dropped are relevant for the comparation (because before that the spending was done to get an -alleged- sexual agressor).
    – SJuan76
    Commented Mar 10, 2018 at 18:04
  • 3
    Notably, the money to hunt Assange has largely come out of the budget for guarding embassies, which they're arguably doing when they stand around waiting for Assange to stick his head out. From a certain point of view, they've not spent anything extra
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 11, 2018 at 11:41

1 Answer 1


Has the UK spent millions of pounds to track a fugitive other than Assange?

Lets remind ourselves of the timeline

A statement from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) on Monday said the operation to arrest Assange continued but it was “no longer proportionate to commit officers to a permanent presence”.

Note that, if my timeline is correct, the Met dropped the expensive 24 hour surveillance years before the Swedish police ceased investigating the rape allegations.

The major cost was incurred at a time when the alleged crime was rape, not when the alleged crime was breaking bail conditions and failing to attend court.

In order to formulate an answer to this or to understand any answer, you need to define a few things

  • UK
  • Fugitive

The legal entity making this expenditure is the Metropolitan police. It is entirely their choice how they allocate their budget to individual criminal investigations.

It is actually very rare for fugitives to be granted asylum and remain in London for three years. So it would be hard to find a directly equivalent prior case that matches Assange's in all respects

People alleged to have committed serious crimes such as rape are rarely fugitives in London for that many years after an arrest warrant has been issued. So there may be no exactly parallel cases whose costs can be compared.

However, it is not unusual for the Metropolitan police to fruitlessly spend millions of pounds investigating alleged crimes.

Operation Midland

The Metropolitan Police has confirmed that one of its high-profile child sexual abuse investigations, Operation Midland, cost £2.5m in total.

It includes staffing costs and overtime expenditure, Scotland Yard said.

The figure comes after the Met said it would be unable to calculate the cost.

The inquiry investigated historical claims of sex abuse and murder made against establishment figures. It closed in March without any charges being brought.

In this case the suspects were not fugitives, but if they had been, there is good reason to expect that more money would have been spent, not less.

UK police forces do often spend millions of pounds trying to track down the location of a single person in order to bring an investigation to a conclusion.

The police investigation into missing RAF airman Corrie Mckeague has cost £2.1m to date

Of course, Corrie Mckeague is not a fugitive, just a missing person.

  • 1
    It's generally suspected that the rape allegations were fabricated for the purposes of getting him arrested. That's also one of the reasons news media rarely brings that aspect up anymore.
    – forest
    Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 6:56
  • @forest: The admittedly fascinating subject of the soundness of allegations against Assange has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the OP's question of whether or not the Met has a prior history of spending large sums on investigations. Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 15:32

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