Cyprus rejects link to Greek spying scandal

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The government on Tuesday hit back at Opposition AKEL’s accusations that its silence is deafening over an alleged Cyprus link to an eavesdropping scandal in Greece and the infamous ‘spy van’ affair.

Government spokesperson Marios Pelekanos said in a statement: “Efforts to connect the two unrelated cases are an attempt at political exploitation, with which it is sought to connect our country with phenomena that occur outside the Republic of Cyprus”.

He said the government considered it “necessary for political figures and parties to show due care and respect for the public interest”, especially regarding national security matters.

“Therefore, any attempt to expose our country to events that have nothing to do with the software provided, whether by companies based in Cyprus or elsewhere, is nothing more than an unacceptable and reprehensible populism that, without documentation, unnecessarily drags our country’s name through the mud internationally,” said Pelekanos.

He claimed the government “at no time during the 9-year rule of President Anastasiades was the monitoring of any political figure, political parties, journalists, mass media and law-abiding citizens allowed or tolerated”.

AKEL badgered the government for its silence over the eavesdropping row raging in Greece and claimed a possible link to the earlier ‘spy van’ affair in Cyprus.

In Greece, two senior officials resigned in the wake of revelations that the country’s intelligence service had tapped the phones of an opposition politician and a journalist, allegedly using spyware known as Pegasus.

“The DISY government is unmoved by the fact that everything screams that Cyprus is connected to this case [in Greece],” AKEL said in a statement.

AKEL said that evidence pointed to the infamous spy van, as the Israeli company is involved in developing the surveillance software used in the spying case in Greece.

It accused the government of “leading the cover-up” in the spy van affair.

“It [the government] never answered the true links of the police and Cyprus intelligence service (KYP) with the companies of the Israeli spies.

“It never answered how the gear of the spy van found itself in Cyprus or its connection to global spy networks,” said AKEL.

It argued the attorney-general’s office never explained its decision to acquit the company’s owners, WiSpear, shutting the case with an “absurd” fine of €76,000 slapped on the company.

In November, legal services dropped all charges against the three individuals arrested concerning the ‘spy van’.

The case surfaced in 2019 after the van was showcased in a Forbes video story broadcast.

Forbes said the 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.

The equipment on the van was estimated to be worth €9 mln.

At the time, WiSpear was registered in Limassol.

Headed by a former Israeli intelligence agent Tal Dilian, the company specialised in providing end-to-end WiFi interception and security solutions.

Last year, 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.