‘Spy van’ owner says he is a target of anti-Israeli sentiment

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Israeli CEO of a company under investigation for allegedly operating a ‘spy van’ in Cyprus has lashed at “amateurish” police for prolonging a “witch-hunt” against him tinted with anti-Semitism.

Tal Dillian, the boss of Larnaca-based WiSpear, said he is being portrayed as an “instigator of malicious activities”.

“My disappointment goes first and foremost to the Cypriot Police which is either stalling or lacks the necessary technical expertise to understand the essence of the investigation and conclude whether or not there has been any wrongdoing,” said Dillian in a statement.

He said he was “embedded into a vicious circle of accusations” solely based on an interview given to Forbes which ran a video story about the van and the technology it used.

“The interview has been altered and used to fuel rumours and innuendos about illegal activities, coming from unnamed sources and serving unclear motives.”

Dillian refuted there had been any illegal activity and was adamant “the police are aware of this fact which is supported by their own investigation”.

He claimed Cyprus police were being influenced by the media furore over the spy van’s alleged hacking activities and hinted there was political pressure also.

“Public statements and/or unfounded allegations against us can only lead one to believe that we are guilty of having committed offences, something which we utterly refuse and simultaneously believe has already violated the presumption of innocence.”

“We understand the police authorities are under extreme pressure by various parties not involved with the investigation who are clueless as to the facts and evidence in place to proceed with arrest warrants against us.”

Dillian argued that any action taken against him or his company would be “legally unjustifiable…disproportionate”.

The former Israeli intelligence officer said he has cooperated with police every step of the investigation since the van was seized last month.

“On November 15 Customs & the Police contacted me to ask for assistance and access the premises. The requests were granted immediately, together with my company’s reassurances that we were at their disposal for any further assistance that would speed up their investigation.”

Dillian accused the police leaking information to the media and dragging the head of the Jewish community into the story “as part of this witch-hunt”.

Again, the company repeated the vehicle was not active within Cyprus territory other than for “demo and field tests purposes”, solely on company-owned devices, and under the “guidelines directed by the local authorities”.

Dillian also said the van was not worth €9 mln as reported in the press but “rather approximately 200,000 since it is a concept van for display purposes”.

Due to its treatment, WiSpear is considering removing all business operations in Cyprus.

“This kind of behaviour by Cypriot authorities will hurt the country appealing to any foreign investors and international companies, as no company can tolerate unstable business and legal environment, totally unprotected to rumours,” said Dillian.

He accused “certain political parties of targeting our Israeli ethnicity and aim to destabilise Cypro-Israeli relations, something far more worrying that the already fragile business profile of the country”.

Forbes said the 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.

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

Police are investigating whether Cyprus-registered WiSpear breached any privacy laws following local media reports that alleged the van was used to spy on people.

Last week, Attorney-general Costas Clerides appointed an independent criminal investigator to assist police in their investigation of the surveillance van.

He said his decision to appoint lawyer Elias Stephanou was made due to the seriousness of the case and the legal angles that have sprung up throughout the probe.