Wednesday

30th Sep 2020

Investigation

Gaddafi-tainted firm scoops EU contract

  • Amesys, a subsidary of Bull SAS International, is accused of helping Gaddafi capture dissidents (Photo: EU's attempts)

The EU’s newest IT agency has awarded a contract to a firm linked with the late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s efforts to track, capture and torture people during the Libyan revolution.

Tallinn-based EU-Lisa, which is to manage all the databases connected to EU asylum, migration and border management policies, recently awarded a € 3.7 million contract to S.A. Bull N.V. and two other companies.

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The so-called Eurodac Transfer deal, which concerns the collection of asylum seekers' fingerprints, was made public on 5 September.

Belgian-based S.A. Bull N.V. is a subsidiary of French firm Bull SAS International, which, via its other subsidiary, Amesys in France, sold surveillance equipment to Gaddafi.

Two French NGOs, the Federation International of Human Rights (FIDH) and the Human Rights League (LIDH), took Amesys to court in 2011.

They accused it of complicity in torture by helping the Libyan dictator to locate and capture dissidents who later suffered physical abuse.

Amesys signed a contract with the Libyan government at the end of 2006 to intercept communications, process data, and help with analysis and monitoring. The company became a part of Bull SAS International in 2010.

A Wikileaks document describes the company’s flagship product, Eagle, as akin to a digital dragnet that sweeps up the country’s entire Internet traffic.

Meanwhile, Amesys’ own literature says its core technology is designed to help law enforcement and intelligence agencies “to reduce crime levels, to protect from terrorism threats and to identify new incoming security danger.”

It says Eagle can retrieve the complete protocol information from the Call Data Record (CDR) and all the attached documents for mail, webmail (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo), VoIP, chats, and others.

Bull SAS sold its Eagle technology in January.

It is now being developed and marketed by a group of former Amesys employees led by Stephane Salies, an Eagle chief designer and an ex-director at Bull SAS.

Amesys says it worked with the Libyan authorities to track child pornography and terrorists but not opponents of the regime. It also denies that it helped the regime record telephone calls and Skype conversations.

But a Paris court over the summer decided to launch an official investigation into the allegations after it heard the testimonies of five victims.

“The Court of Appeal has confirmed that there was sufficient evidence to start investigating in this matter, despite the road blocks erected by the Paris Prosecutor’s office, obviously reluctant to allow an impartial and independent inquiry into this matter,” said Patrick Baudouin, a legal counsel at FIDH, in a statement in July.

The victims, who had opposed the regime, say their emails, Skype conversations, and Facebook pages had all been hacked.

They say Libyan intelligence agents had shown them print-outs and made them listen to recorded conversations.

Journalists from the Paris-based news agency Mediapart also revealed in August that Abdallah Senoussi, who is Gaddafi’s brother-in-law and former chief of intelligence, had helped seal the Amesys deal.

For its part, EU-Lisa told this website that the agency became financially independent four months ago. The agency is responsible for all its own security-related procurements.

It noted that the Eurodac Transfer contract is its first procurement tender.

It noted that Amesys is not a part of the contract consortium and that tenders can be excluded only if they perform an illegal activity that “is detrimental to the Union’s financial interest.”

EU-Lisa started operations on December 1, 2012. While the seat of the agency is in Tallinn, the operational management of the large-scale systems is carried out in Strasbourg, France with a backup site in Sankt Johann im Pongau, Austria.

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