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MEPs examining evidence in spyware probe

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The European Parliament’s committee of inquiry to investigate the use of Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spyware (PEGA) has received answers from Cypriot officials and will now “corroborate them”.

A committee delegation visiting Cyprus held separate meetings with Attorney-General George Savvides, Commerce Minister Natasa Pilides and Deputy Minister for Research and Digital Policy Kyriacos Kokkinos.

“We had a very intensive exchange of view with the Attorney General (who) gave an extensive explanation as to his role in the legal system in Cyprus and what he could share about the investigation in the van case, for instance,” PEGA chair Dutch MEP Jeroen Lenaers said.

“There were many questions from the colleagues in the European Parliament, he tried to answer them all, and of course, we need to discuss now among our colleagues what we do in the follow-up of these questions,” he added.

Asked whether he found the responses he received as consistent with their inquiry, the PEGA Chair refrained from commenting.

“We need to discuss with my colleagues at the end of this visit, as well all the information received today by the Attorney-General but also by the Ministers and other people we spoke to.

“And we will take all the information we’ve received, and we will check it with other sources of information that we also have to our availability and come to our final conclusions, which you will find in the report of the European Parliament”.

He said Pilides also gave a “lot of information” and “now we need to see what to do with those answers and corroborate them in other ways”.

The Committee visiting Cyprus in the context of an inquiry on the use of spyware in Greece will visit Athens from Wednesday to Friday.

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

In Greece, similar 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.

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 was 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 later dropped.