Whatever your thoughts of Julian Assange, there’s one thing nobody can deny: he’s managed to wangle a rent-free life in London’s Zone 1 for the past five and a half years, which is, in some ways, pretty clever.
Actually, there are two things nobody can deny: he’s managed to wangle a rent-free life in London’s Zone 1 for the past five and a half years, and he looks a bit like a dishevelled Lucius Malfoy.
Assange is back in the news today after the Ecuadorian embassy, where he is staying, called his tenure there ‘untenable’, and said they are looking to find a solution.
But how much rent has the platinum-haired, rape-charge-evading, pledge-breaking, sandwich-eating hacker got away without paying?
First we need to work out, is he living a flatshare kind of life or a one-bedroom flat kind of life? Rent-wise there’s a big difference.
His bedroom (4.6 by 4 metres, not bad) has a treadmill and microwave in it, which screams out ‘depressing studio flat’ - it sounds like something your mate’s dad moves into when your mate’s mum throws him out, and it isn’t until after he’s signed the contract that he realises he can’t heat up a supermarket pizza, and all he wants is a supermarket pizza god damn it, and he can’t have one because there isn’t an oven, so he sits on his bed eating a microwaved Chicago Town and burning the roof of his mouth and thinking about his decisions.
But hang on - Assange is also allowed to use a few rooms in the embassy, which he shares with employees. That sounds as though they could be the equivalent of the kitchen and living room in a flatshare, making him more like the weirdo flatmate who cooks in his bedroom because he’s scared of sunlight and human interaction.
However, those rooms are presumably empty at night when embassy employees go home, giving Assange the equivalent of his own living room. He’s not living a shitty flatshare existence - this dude’s got an actual proper non-studio flat, sort of.
Not just any flat, either - it’s got 24-hour security guards and a balcony, both of which you’d have to pay extra for, plus he’s got a cat, which not all landlords allow. And it’s in Knightsbridge.
There are pros and cons to living in Knightsbridge, as there are with any area:
- His local shop is Harrods, so if he were to pop out for a few beers they’d cost him a fiver a bottle
- He wouldn’t, though
- Would he
- That’s the whole point
- He’s really near the Natural History Museum though
- Hang on, he can’t go there either, can he
- That’s probably frustrating
- It’s a great museum
Looking at Gumtree, the nearest equivalent that’s currently available is this ground-floor one-bed a few roads away. It doesn’t have a balcony, but it does have an oven. It’s available for a cool £425 per week.
Assange first entered the embassy on 18 June 2012 (Paul McCartney’s 70th birthday, fact fans), so has been living there rent-free for 290 weeks. 290 weeks at £425 comes to £123,250 worth of unpaid rent, which is ludicrous. Plus, you know what estate agents are like - there’d probably be a cleaning fee when he moved in, or a £75 charge for printing some stuff out. They get you every goddamn time.
If we call it an extra £150 for admin (scum), and, to pluck a figure out of the air, £56 for cleaning, Assange is £123,456 up.
That’s a pleasing number, isn’t it? One two three four five six. And it’s loads - the equivalent of five years on the UK median income, enough to buy a nice two-bedroom flat in Dundee, and money the Ecuadorian embassy should totally consider invoicing for. Assange reportedly received £1.3 million for his autobiography and claims to have made a 50,000% return on his bitcoin investments, so it’s probably time he got his own place. Or prison.