Legal pundit and Howard Kennedy partner Mark Stephens has denied being a conduit between Julian Assange and Nigel Farage.
Farage was recently caught by Buzzfeed
leaving the Ecuadorian embassy, where Assange has been holed up since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden on rape charges. The meeting fueled speculation that Farage had visited Assange at the behest of Donald Trump, who benefited in the US election from Wikileaks' publication of hacked emails which damaged Hillary Clinton.
Stephens was subsequently fingered as the original link between the ex-UKIP leader and the Wikileaks owner when a cache of documents dating from 2011 leaked to Business Insider
which it claimed was evidence of a longstanding relationship between UKIP under Farage and Assange. It suggested that the documents showed the relationship was brokered by Stephens, who was then Assange's lawyer. The documents included:
- An email from UKIP MEP Gerard Batten's secretary to Stephens requesting a meeting with Assange.
- Minutes of a meeting between Batten and Stephens detailing the possibility of a UKIP press conference supporting Assange.
- An email promoting a "UKIP City of London Business Forum" on the European Arrest Warrant, held at the House of Lords, in which Stephens was described as "the solicitor representing Julian Assange" and billed as one of two "Key speakers".
- An email from Farage's then-personal assistant providing undisclosed recipients with a review of the House of Lords event, in which she wrote that "Bianca Jagger was there with Mark Stevens (sic) who Nigel spoke to".
However, in emails with RollOnFriday Stephens strongly disputed Business Insider's implication that he was the connection between the two men, as well as the accuracy and veracity of the leaked documents. Stephens said that the meeting note "doesn’t have the ring of truth about it
", because it suggested Assange would speak on the continent, when he surrendered his passport in 2010. Querying the characterisation of the House of Lords event, he said, "I don't know what UKIP say they advertised but I've never spoken for them in the City of London
". Stephens also challenged the UKIP staffer's recollection of the House of Lords event, saying "I don't think Farage was there
", adding, "in fact I don't think I've spoken with Farage about Assange ever
||Stephens wants no part of this
Stephens, who no longer acts for Assange and has been critical of Trump on social media, said his interactions with UKIP "were only to raise awareness of the deficiencies of the EAW
". He said, "I may have been asked to arrange meetings with Assange and UKIP
", but, "I didn't do so
". At the time, "everyone wanted access and I got enquiries from all quarters. Most of which [I] ignored or brushed off"
. Understandably keen to distance himself from an Assange-Farage-Trump love triangle, Stephens said, "maybe a later lawyer or conduit did but I didn't