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27th Feb 2024

Spyware-hacked MEPs still seeking answers

  • Wiretapped and hacked MEPs speak out against spyware (Photo: EUobserver)
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A group of European lawmakers whose phones were hacked or had been wiretapped by apparent state services are still seeking answers.

"It seems that absolutely no one wants to assume any responsibility," Greek socialist Nikos Androulakis told MEPs in Strasbourg on Thursday (6 October).

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Androulakis leads the Pasok opposition party, the third largest, in Greece.

Attempts had been made to infect his phone with Predator, a spyware capable of making recordings, around the same time he was elected Pasok leader in December of 2021.

"The minute I say that I'm going to stand for the socialist party, I suddenly realised that I'm a victim of phone hacking or wiretapping," he said.

Androulakis voiced mounting frustration at the lack of accountability by the Greek government, noting his surveillance file is now missing.

"The whole dossier was torn up. It was destroyed," he said.

The Greek case had led to the resignation of the head of the Greek national intelligence service, EYP.

The EYP reports to prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who is also a member of the ruling centre-right party New Democracy. Mitsotakis' secretary-general (and nephew) Grigoris Dimitriadis was also dismissed.

Mitsotakis has acknowledged that the EYP wiretapped Androulakis but denies having knowledge of the operations.

"Is he really in the dark? Otherwise, why would he have dismissed these people?," said Androulakis.

Catalan Gate

Others speaking at the same hearing include Catalan pro-independence Spanish MEPs.

The Spanish MEPs are victims of possibly the largest spyware case in the EU, according to findings by Citizen Lab, a Canadian laboratory specialising in digital espionage.

They identified 65 people supporting the Catalan independence movement had been targeted by Pegasus, a sophisticated Israeli-made spyware, and detailed in a report by the New Yorker magazine.

Among them is Green MEP Diana Riba i Giner, who first realised her phone had been hacked on 28 October 2019.

"It was a Monday morning, and I started the day with a call from an assistant at the European Parliament. It was a very long phone call," she said.

"And when the phone call ended, the assistant received an anonymous phone call. And it was a recording of the conversation that we've just had," she said.

Giner said the hack happened around the same time Catalan leaders were sentenced to prison, including her husband Raül Romeva, as well as Oriol Junqueras.

"We were discussing strategy with lawyers. My husband was involved in a legal process," she said.

"We were in the middle of that court case with the pro independence leaders," she said.

Jordi Solé, another pro-independence member of the European Parliament, realised he had been hacked by Pegasus after journalists had his phone checked by Citizen Lab.

"Two [infections] were detected on my phone. And this was actually filmed live and that's how I found out that I was being spied on," he said.

Citizen Lab determined the attacks happened in June 2020, when Solé was discussing internal party strategy.

"We were trying to establish the next steps in order to defend the rights of political prisoners and those in exile," he said.

Solé says he still does not know whether the hacking had been approved by the government or whether there was any legal justification behind it.

"I wonder what judge is able to authorise this and what arguments can be used to justify spying on me and others?," he said.

Pro-independence MEP Antoni Comín made similar comments.

He said the Spanish National Intelligence Service admitted to spying on 18 people in cases that received judicial support.

Comín's name is not among those, but was still identified by Citizen Lab as having been infected by Pegasus.

"I don't know who spied on me. [But] only states have access to Pegasus services. So what body within the Spanish government has spied on me?," he said.

EU parliament spyware inquiry eyes Italian firms

An investigation by Lighthouse Reports and media partners including EUobserver found Italian firms Tykelab and RCS Lab were using surreptitious phone network attacks and sophisticated spyware against targets. The findings have spiked the interest of MEPs already probing spyware abuse.

Investigation

NSO surveillance rival operating in EU

As European Parliament hearings into hacking scandals resume this week, an investigation led by Lighthouse Reports with EUobserver, Der Spiegel, Domani and Irpimedia reveals the unreported scale of operations at a shady European surveillance outfit.

Catalan spyware victims demand justice

Victims of the widening spyware scandal in Spain are demanding justice and reparations, following the revelations that journalists, lawyers, civil society and politicians had been targeted.

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