Cypriot MEP Demetris Papadakis is warning authorities on his native island to stay away from cover-up attempts and instead “fully investigate” allegations of espionage and wiretapping by politicians and police using illegal malware.
Papadakis gave a press conference in Nicosia on Tuesday following resignations in Athens this week over a scandal of illegal wiretapping, an issue that also made headlines in Cyprus, with the socialist parliamentarian saying this was top priority for subcommittees in Brussels.
“And if it turns out that Cypriot authorities prevaricated on the issue, political blame will be too heavy,” Papadakis said.
Papadakis reminded reporters that similar claims were made by fellow EDEK MP Kostis Efstathiou back in 2019, when the spy can scandal broke on the island.
Efstathiou went on record in late November 2019 to accuse political parties in Cyprus of buying wiretapping capabilities, referring to software and services by Israeli hi-tech companies that had set shop on the island to sell anti-terrorism software to European customers.
Nicosia denies Greek wiretapping linked to Cyprus
Government spokesperson Andreas Pelekanos issued a statement on Tuesday, cautioning critics that wiretapping cases abroad were not linked to Cyprus and adding there were healthy privacy laws on the island.
“Therefore any attempt to expose our country with cases that have nothing to do with software provided by companies based in Cyprus or elsewhere is nothing more than an unacceptable and reprehensible populism, which unnecessarily slanders our country internationally without any substantiated basis,” Pelekanos said.
But more politicians spoke out on the issue, with AKEL spokesperson Yiorgos Koukoumas wondering why was the government of ruling party DISY “trying to downplay the links between our country and wiretapping in Greece?”
Local media in the past published reports that claimed the conservative DYSI ruling party and the Police were both customers of the Israeli company
Koukoumas went as far as to openly criticize the state’s attorney general and his deputy, both former ministers hailing from DISY, for dropping charges in the country’s spy van case. The left party MP also rehashed rumors that Deputy Attorney General Savvas Angelides, who served as defense minister previously, had links to the owner of the Israeli company in Cyprus.
“How long will they cover up the Deputy Attorney General's scandalous connection with Dilian, whom he exonerated of charges?” Koukoumas asked.
Local media in the past published reports that claimed the conservative DYSI ruling party and the Police were both customers of the Israeli company.
But presidential candidate and DYSI chairman Averof Neophytou had quickly denied the reports, saying instead the party had contracted the company to install a security system.
“We installed a security system in the Rally building. It was there before, it got improved, and today we have another system, just like other buildings,” Neophytou said in November 2019.
Earlier this year, Paphos Mayor Phedonas Phedonos accused the Cypriot state of letting citizens down in the spy van case, suggesting it was settled with a fine and not a court trial to keep things hushed up.
WiSpear, the company that owned the high-tech surveillance vehicle that was confiscated by police when the scandal broke, vehemently denied ever spying on citizens and initially criticized law enforcement authorities for carrying out an investigation without properly understanding the technology.
But in February 2022 Phedonos, a member of DYSI, publicly said that a high-ranking police official, whom he had identified by last name on the radio, knocked on his door in Paphos one day after driving all the way from Nicosia to ask him about information her had.
The mayor went on to suggest that unauthorized access to stolen information was being conducted in Cyprus as part of industrial espionage and other activities, such as selling information to embassies and using private data to blackmail individuals.