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The three pillars that point to the involvement of Cyprus and the government ruling forces in the wiretapping scandal

Statement by Aristos Damianou , member of the Political Bureau of AKEL and MP on the meeting of the PEGA Committee of the European Parliament  with the Parliamentary Legal Affairs and Institutions Committee

2 November 2022

We attach particular importance to our meeting today because our intention is to present some serious facts and data, which we believe will help your work. For AKEL, the role of the European Parliament is decisive in the European Union, particularly with regards the protection of the rule of law, human rights and political freedoms.

The very formation of the European Parliament’s PEGA Committee of Inquiry and your mandate reflect our common concern about possible violations of human rights and freedoms that are also enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, as a result of violations in the use of Pegasus software or similar surveillance software, for example Predator.

I hasten to state the self-evident. The debate that is taking place, but also the references that will be made by us are not related to the given mission of the Central Intelligence Agency (KYP), which is state security agency to serve well-intentioned national interests. Nor does it relate to the adequate legislative framework for lawful interceptions following the issuing of a warrant by the courts. Our references concern activities and actions beyond and outside the legal or ethical.

I want to make another point. The House of Representatives is first and foremost a political body that emanates from and expresses the sovereign will of the people. It is not a court of law to condemn, but neither should it relinquish its inalienable right to exercise parliamentary control and scrutiny over the executive power in question.

On the matter of illegal surveillance and wiretapping, therefore, the government ruling forces are under scrutiny. Just as they are under scrutiny with regards the activities of companies producing and exporting malicious surveillance software. It is no coincidence that for several weeks now we have tabled a relevant ex-officio issue, which will be discussed next Wednesday in the relevant Parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee.

Such are the coincidences that at some point they cease being coincidences and become nuanced indications, bordering on a cover-up and entanglement/interwoven interests.

There are three pillars to our position, based on facts that speak for themselves.

First pillar – the facts surrounding the black spy van

In the police affidavit before a criminal court dated. 20/12/2019, the following revealing facts are mentioned, among others:

  • A VAN type vehicle with foreign registration numbers, located on the territory of the Republic of Cyprus and equipped with electronic and technical equipment with capabilities for surveillance and interception of communications.
  • The vehicle belongs to WS WISPEAR SYSTEMS LTD, one of the directors of which is Tal Jonathan Dilian, who in a video and interview is presented as the owner of the company INTELLEXA, which has a specific application of the category “trojans” as well as systems for surveillance/wiretapping via wifi, the monitoring of telephone conversations, SMS, decryption of cipher texts, mobile phone positioning, data extraction, etc.
  • As a result of investigations in a specific building in Larnaca, relevant equipment was found and the coexistence of the persons under investigation in the same or adjacent office premises with Avraham Shahak Avni was established. Equipment related to the vehicle under investigation with extensive surveillance capabilities was found in the same premises.
  • The vehicle was imported into the Republic of Cyprus and obtained a permit from the Customs Department, originating from Israel, on the justification given that it would record weather phenomena.
  • As part of the same investigation, the Office of the Commissioner for Electronic Communications and Postal Regulation informed that the investigated companies owned by Dilian and Avni had not obtained a legal electronic communications authorization.
  • Even more importantly, it emerged that, on the grounds of strengthening the wifi network at Larnaca International Airport, a permit was granted by the state to install three antennas under the responsibility of WS WISPEAR SYSTEMS LTD and Tal Jonathan Dilian. However, always according to the evidence of the Police, 3 years earlier, in 2016, this gentleman presented before State officials and Airport managers the real potential of the system which was of course those of surveillance and wiretapping of mobile phones. He had even called the project “Home Land Security”.
  • The above activities appear to have resulted in illegal access to over 9.5 million devices.
  • A year earlier, in 2018, the state gave WS WISPEAR SYSTEMS LTD, a license to export surveillance equipment, as stated, “Interception Equipment designed for the extraction of voice or data”.

This unprecedented case was brought before a criminal court. The accused company WS WISPEAR SYSTEMS LTD was sentenced last April to a fine of €76,000. The prosecution against the owner and officer of the convicted company was suspended. And the Court ordered the return of all the equipment, including the VAN to the defendants!

If the authorities of the Republic had done their job properly, the activities of the persons in question and their companies (some of which were renamed) would possibly not have been transferred and would not have stained Greece as well.

Second pillar – the production of dual-use software in the Republic of Cyprus

The official version of the government ruling forces, with dozens of public statements by the government spokesman, is that no malicious software is produced and exported in Cyprus.

Let’s look at the facts:

  • A company registered in the Republic of Cyprus appears to issue an invoice for services to a company in the UAE for $7 million.
  • Journalists and activists have filed lawsuits in Cyprus and Israeli courts against the NSO Group, which is known to produce Pegasus, for illegal surveillance and wiretapping.
  • In the case, NSO appears to have sold Pegasus through its subsidiaries in Cyprus to a company in the UAE.
  • A report by Amnesty International, Privacy International and others links illegal activities of the NSO Group to Cyprus.
  • A leading NSO executive responded in writing to Amnesty International saying that “group companies export products from Israel, Bulgaria and Cyprus”.
  • He named specific Cypriot companies of the NSO Group that provide services to the UAE.

Government officials here are aware that Tal Jonathan Dilian, whose prosecution was suspended by the Attorney General despite his self-evident involvement with the black spy van, is related to the NSO Group, which produces the Pegasus, and of course to Intellexa, which produces the Predator. There are – also – serious police findings regarding Avraham Shahak Avni.

At present we do not wish to go any further, as a large amount of information we hold on the interconnection of Cypriot companies with Greek companies and individuals is the subject of parliamentary scrutiny by the Greek Parliament.

At the same time, we also understand that the correct questions have already been raised by you regarding other companies such as Cytrox and Passitora Ltd, among others. It would be useful to examine the activities of other companies in Cyprus and Greece such as Poltrex, later Alchemycorp Ltd, Apollo Holdings etc.

Third pillar – the political complex

AKEL’s firm position is that the privacy of citizens, the right to a private life and communication is sacred. Surveillance and wiretapping are characteristic of anti-democratic regimes, they affect the rule of law and the quality of democracy. It is no coincidence, therefore, that we have fought political battles for these and other rights, and that the legislation you have been informed about and the safeguards, for example, a court order, bear our imprint.

For that reason, any form of transaction with companies or individuals engaged in the production and/or export of dual-use software and the political personnel is unacceptable and reprehensible. It is here that relentless questions arise for the Ministerial Cabinet, the ruling party, namely DISY and it’s President Mr. Averof Neophytou.

Question 1: Why were the NSO Group or its subsidiaries or affiliated companies given licenses to export malicious software, when they knew about the construction and use of Pegasus software?

Question 2: Why was a similar stand displayed with regard to the development, use and export of the Predator software?

Question 3: Why, despite the Police’s opinion to the contrary, did the Council of Ministers grant a permit to carry a weapon to Avraham Shahak Avni, whose activities were known to them since 2015-2016?

Question 4: Why did the Police and other government agencies purchase services and products from Dilian and Avni’s companies?

Question 5: Apart from DISY buildings, where else has equipment from companies of these gentlemen been installed?

Question 6: Why did the Office of the President of DISY act towards the Ministry of Energy, Trade and Industry at the request of Dilian and WS WISPEAR SYSTEMS LTD with the aim of the Ministry to mediate for a bid in the Netherlands?

Question 7: Who actually took the decision to suspend Dilian’s prosecution?

Question 8: Who brokered the expansion of Dilian’s “activities” in Greece?

Question 9: Why did Mr. Sincas, who had been a long-time confidant of the President of DISY party, resign in the recent past as a member of the Political Bureau and as Head/Secretary of International Relations of DISY?

Question 10: Why did the nephew and Secretary General of the Prime Minister of Greece, Mr. Gregory Dimitriadis, resign?


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