Three Cypriots arrested in Israeli ‘spy van’ probe

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Cyprus police on Thursday arrested three Cypriots in connection with an alleged Israeli “spy van” equipped with sophisticated surveillance technology capable of hacking communications.

The three suspects, two men aged 30 and 35, and a woman aged 41, face 13 charges related to violation of privacy laws, processing private data, falsely obtaining documents and breaking the radio communication law,  said police.

Police said the trio – who work for the company that owns the van — are expected to appear before a Larnaca district court on Friday for a detention order.

Last month an independent investigator was appointed to assist the police probe into the alleged “spy van”.

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

The ongoing police investigation seeks to ascertain whether any criminal offences were committed in 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 Tal Dillian is said to be a former Israeli intelligence officer.

Forbes said multi-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.

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.

In a statement earlier this month, its boss, Dillian, lashed out at “amateurish” police for prolonging a “witch-hunt” against him.

Dillian 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”.