Cypriot Deputy Attorney General Savvas Angelides has fired back at allegations over a conflict of interest in an alleged cover-up involving Israeli-made malware, as Nicosia and other EU capitals have been feeling pressure to come clean following rumors of widespread unlawful surveillance.
Cyprus’ second-in-command chief law enforcer issued a statement on Wednesday, denying accusations of a cover-up in the country’s spy van case.
Critics had pointed the finger at Angelides for allegedly giving a pass to an Israeli ex-intelligence officer, whose Cypriot-based company got entangled in the country’s spy van case in 2019.
The deputy AG denied having any ties to WiSpear owner Tal Dilian, saying he had “no knowledge whatsoever” of any connections between himself or his relatives with the former IDF commander, a similar statement he had made in the past.
Cypriot deputy AG denies conflict of interest
Angelides, who served as defense minister before being assigned to his current position, was accused of having a conflict of interest after a local newspaper last year reported that his brother had business dealings with Avraham Shahak Avni, a Jewish community leader who was implicated in the spy van probe.
'A decade ago a relative of mine planned to work with Avni... the fact that the company registered by my former law firm... was never activated, leaves no room for even a person acting in bad faith'
Avni and Dilian together founded Intellexa in Larnaca, with the southern town being the headquarters of a global intelligence enterprise aimed at law enforcement agencies dealing with threat actors.
“The fact that a decade ago a relative of mine had planned to work professionally with Mr. Shahak Avni, with no actual business resulting as that cooperation failed to launch from the start, as well as the fact that the company registered by my former law firm on the instructions of my relative was never activated, leaves no room for even a person acting in bad faith to insinuate that there was a cover-up or conflict of interest in my role in making a decision on the course of the “black van” case,” Angelides wrote.
WiSpear ended up paying fines to the Cypriot government over privacy breaches. While there had been no evidence of illegal spying during the trial, prosecutors argued that thousands of email addresses collected from the company’s SpearHead 360 van but it was data scooped up in violation of privacy laws.
Questions from Cyprus all the way to Greece
Dilian, who took his business to Greece after the trial in Cyprus, maintained that police had been pressured by others who were ignoring facts and simmply wanted to see people arrested.
But the European Commission this week said it expected authorities in Greece to “thoroughly” examine allegations stemming from a spyware scandal involving Predator, a product said to be similar to Pegasus, both software licensed by the Israeli company.
Media pundits on the island warned developments were expected soon as they raised questions about one of Dilian’s companies in Cyprus that bought a little-known Macedonian firm which reportedly launched Predator.
WiSpear maintained all along that the spy van was used in Cyprus only for demonstration purposes. The company also vehemently denied breaching privacy laws or targeting individuals in the Republic, except individuals taking part in the company’s field tests.
Dilian, who led efforts in developing intelligence tools for IDF’s special operations units and other defense agencies, says his company’s software packages sold to governments were licensed only for lawful counter-terrorism and law enforcement activities.
But Cypriot politicians have argued that political parties and the police on the island had bought or had access to malware for “unlawful surveillance” activities, referring to using intrusive military-grade software such as Pegasus and Predator.
Cypriot MEP wants Brussles include Nicosia in Athens probe
Cypriot MEP Giorgos Georgiou, who serves as Vice-Chairman of the European Parliament’s Pegasus Committee, has called on EU lawmakers to authorize an investigation into Dilian’s activities in Cyprus after politicians and journalists in several EU countries were found to have been hacked and put under surveillance through their mo phones.
Georgiou, who plans to attend the next committee meeting on August 30, has already submitted a request that Cyprus be put under the microscope as EU lawmakers prepared to head to Greece where a similar scandal made headlines news after Predator was found to have hacked an opposition political leader’s phone.