Anger after ‘spy van’ charges dropped

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Main opposition party, AKEL, is unhappy the legal services dropped all charges against three individuals arrested in connection with an alleged Israeli ‘spy van’ equipped with sophisticated surveillance technology.

The Attorney General’s office said it had no comment to make on the case.

“The Law Office of the Republic shall make no comment nor respond on the various issues being raised about the case of the ‘black van’, given that legal proceedings are still pending before a court,” said a statement by the legal services.

On Monday, Attorney General George Savvides moved to drop the charges against the three suspects, two men aged 30 and 35 and a woman aged 41.

Amongst the three was Tal Dillian, the Israeli CEO of WiSpear Systems Limited, who owned the van.

Dillian was reported to be a former Israeli intelligence officer.

The three were facing some 90 charges related to violating privacy laws, processing private data, falsely obtaining documents, breaking the radio communication law, and conspiracy to commit a felony.

Charges were not dropped against WiSpear; the company will go on trial on November 30, when it’s due to enter a plea.

The company faces a fine if it enters a guilty plea or is found guilty after a trial process.

AKEL hinted that the AG’s decision was a cover-up.

“Essentially, the closure of the case is being engineered,” said AKEL in a statement.

“The questions raised by AKEL and by society remain unanswered, and the government cannot hide behind its legal counsellor.

“It concerns the rule of law and national security. It concerns democracy and human rights in our country. This case calls for a real and thorough investigation.”

Police began investigating the case in November 2019, after it had been showcased in a Forbes video story broadcast.

Forbes said multi-million state-of-the-art equipment in the van could monitor electronic devices within a 500-metre radius, hack any phone and listen in to conversations regardless of the level of encryption.

In the video, while interviewed by Forbes, Dilian was essentially advertising his services, which included covert surveillance and eavesdropping.

At the time, WiSpear was registered in Limassol.

Headed by Dilian, the company specialized in providing end-to-end WiFi interception and security solutions.

Some 17 searches were carried out in homes, company premises, and vehicles.

Electronic documents and other evidence were sent for forensic examination, with police filing charges against the three suspects and WiSpear.

The company is charged with setting up an electronic device or system consisting of WiFi access points capable of intercepting private communications without permission.

Earlier this month, the data protection watchdog imposed an administrative fine of €925,000 on WiSpear for GDPR violations.

The Commissioner for the Protection of Personal Data said WiSpear’s van collected the Media Access Control (MAC) address and International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) of multiple devices.

A MAC address is a unique device identifier on a network, including the internet; the IMSI is a 15-digit number that mobile providers assign to terminals in a cellular network.

Both can be used to identify and track individuals.