Julian Assange has put himself up for sale on eBay, offering bidders the chance to join him for lunch. So does it mean WikiLeaks has run out of money? Not yet, says a former spokesman for the group.
Prospective buyers have the “chance at being one of eight people to dine with WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange and renowned Slovenian philosopher, Slavoj Zizek”.
The winners will spend at least three hours with the two men on 2 July “at one of London’s finest restaurants”. The meal will be followed by a debate at the Frontline Club on the “impact of WikiLeaks on the world”.
Julian Assange is currently on bail in the UK but is due to be extradited to Sweden in July to face allegations of sexual misconduct against two women, which he denies.
I doubt the end is nigh, as odd as such fundraising efforts look. James Ball, former WikiLeaks spokesman
The auction promises “100 per cent of the final sale price will support WikiLeaks”.
But a former WikiLeaks spokesman told Channel 4 News it is possible the money raised could be used to help fund Mr Assange’s legal battle.
James Ball said: “I think it’s just about possible that the money could go to Julian’s defence fund, and I think they should make it absolutely clear who the recipient of donations will be – it’s not unreasonable for donors to ask for that.
“Is it Wau Holland [a German foundation which promotes freedom of information], who have managed WikiLeaks’ main account for some time? Or another WikiLeaks legal entity?”
The eight lunches will be the first items sold by “slavojulian” who registered with eBay on 8 June. Current bids have risen to around £3,000 per person, which means the auction will likely raise a final sum of around £25,000.
WikiLeaks, in operation for five years, has struggled to raise money since Visa, Mastercard and PayPal prevented donors from making transactions last year after the online whistleblowing site published previously secret US military war logs from Aghanistan and Iraq.
James Ball said: “WikiLeaks’ fundraising options are seriously curtailed. They haven’t managed to lift the bans imposed… leaving them only with direct bank donations (which have a heavy £10 + transaction fee) or using a complex and obscure online currency known at Bitcoins.”
So does “lunch with Julian” suggest WikiLeaks.org is suffering a serious funding crisis?
“WikiLeaks raised over $1m last year and its overheads are astonishingly low for an organisation of its impact. I don’t think they are in dire straits yet,” Mr Ball said.
“I doubt the end is nigh, as odd as such fundraising efforts look.
“It’s hard not to conclude ego might be driving the fundraising, rather than any kind of cash maximisation. That said, they’re entitled to raise money however they wish.”
Channel 4 News contacted eBay about the WikiLeaks auction but the firm declined to comment.