Cyprus appoints independent investigator in Israeli ‘spy van’ case

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Cyprus on Thursday appointed an independent investigator to assist a police probe into an alleged “spy van” equipped with sophisticated surveillance technology capable of hacking communications.

The island’s top lawyer, attorney-general Costas Clerides said due to the “seriousness of the case and the different legal aspects” that are cropping up, a criminal law expert has been appointed to help police.

He said, in a statement, Elias Stephanou will work with the police in an investigation to ascertain whether any criminal offences were committed to violating the right to privacy and confidential communication.

Police began investigating after the opposition communist party AKEL asked what the government was doing about activities undertaken in the van, which was showcased in a Forbes video story broadcast several months ago that only recently went viral in Cyprus.

The van is owned by Cyprus-registered company WiSpear whose Israeli CEO is said to be a former Israeli intelligence officer.

Forbes had named the owner of the van as ex-Israeli intelligence officer Tal Dilian, who allegedly heads a Cyprus-registered company that owns the vehicle.

It said the $9 million state-of-the-art equipment in the van can monitor electronic devices within a 500-meter radius, hack any phone and listen in to conversations regardless of the level of encryption.

Earlier in November, police searched the company premises where the van was located in the southern coastal resort of Larnaca after securing warrants.

The van was seized on November 17 and is still in the possession of the police.

WiSpear denies any wrongdoing and says the van was not used to spy on anybody in Cyprus or hired to do so.

“We would like to restate that the car has not been active within Cypriot territory other than for demo and field tests purposes only, solely on company-owned devices,” said a WiSpear statement last week.

It claimed to be the victim of a “witch-hunt” and a “rumours campaign, full of innuendos and unsupported accusations by people with no authority on the subject”.