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Euro Parliament begins Cyprus spyware probe

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A delegation from the European Parliament’s inquiry committee to investigate the use of Pegasus software (PEGA) and equivalent surveillance spyware launched a joint mission in Cyprus and Greece.

The fact-finding mission seeks to establish a link to Israel’s Pegasus spyware, used across the continent in a ground-shaking surveillance scandal.

It is estimated that over 50,000 telephone numbers, mainly journalists, activists, and politicians, are being monitored through the software.

France’s Le Monde said those targeted include the mobile phone numbers of European Council President Charles Michel and French President Emmanuel Macron, who took part in the investigation.

In Greece, Predator spyware was used to monitor opposition party leaders and journalists.

Meetings this week will focus on investigating accusations that Predator has been used against journalists and politicians in Greece while also looking into potential connections with Cyprus.

The delegation will meet with legal expert Elias Stephanou and journalists Fanis Makrides and Makarios Droushiotis.

On Wednesday, the delegation will have a joint meeting with Commerce Minister Natasa Pilides and Deputy Minister for Research and Digital Policy Kyriacos Kokkinos. A meeting with Attorney General George Savvides is also scheduled.

After the MEPs have visited parliament, they will depart for Greece late Wednesday.

The MEPs participating in the mission include committee chair Jeroen Lenaers (EPP, Netherlands), rapporteur Sophia in ‘t Veld (Renew, Netherlands), Sylvie Guillaume (S&D, France), Juan Ignacio Zoido Álvarez (EPP, Spain) and Elissavet Vozemberg – Vrionidi (EPP, Greece).

On Wednesday, the delegation will meet with journalists covering the issue extensively in Athens.

On Thursday, the delegation will meet Greek Minister of State George Gerapetritis, the Hellenic Parliament’s former investigative committee members, and the Public Prosecutor’s office.

Greek journalist Thanasis Koukakis and Socialist Greek MEP and president of KINAL-PASOK Nikos Androulakis were targeted by the Predator spyware with links to a company that has been active in Cyprus.

Pegasus is linked to Cyprus’ infamous Israeli spy van case reported in 2019.

In August, AKEL MEP George Georgiou called on the European Parliament to put Cyprus under the microscope and called for an on-site investigation concerning the eavesdropping scandal raging in Greece.

Georgiou believes there is a possible link between the ‘spy van’ affair and Greece.

The company which created the surveillance software in Greece was founded by the former Israeli spy Tal Dilian, the main suspect in the Cyprus black van case.

Headed by the former Israeli intelligence agent, WiSpear, a company specialised in providing end-to-end WiFi interception and security solutions, was reportedly the owner of the black van.

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 multiple devices’ Media Access Control (MAC) addresses and International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI).

In 2019, Cyprus police launched an investigation into the import of meteorological equipment that later emerged as spyware used to intercept information and breaches of sensitive personal data.

A state-of-the-art spy van capable of hacking any mobile phone was impounded in Larnaca by police during an investigation.

Charges against Dilian and two other defendants were dropped.