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Cyprus

Akel demands answers over spy van offering surveillance services (updated)

The spy van at the centre of the 2019 case

Main opposition Akel demanded an explanation from the government on Friday over the presence of a high-tech surveillance vehicle in Larnaca that was featured in an article in Forbes magazine in August.

Owned by ex-Israeli intelligence officer Tal Dillian, the vehicle is kitted out with millions of dollars of surveillance equipment able to intercept communications within a one-kilometre radius, the report said.

In a written statement, Akel wanted to know how and why such a vehicle was present in Cyprus and whether it had been inspected at customs.

The party also asked whether it was offering surveillance services and who granted permission for such services to be offered.

“The government must immediately give answers and be accountable to the people,” the party said. “Authorities ought to act immediately and confiscate the equipment to stop its operation until its legitimacy and use is investigated.”

Phone tapping is illegal in Cyprus though written communications can be intercepted under certain circumstances but only with a court order.

In response, the government said the matter was being investigated by the police, adding however, that  the importation, manufacture, advertisement, and sale of such equipment was regulated by the law on the protection of private communications.

The businessman in question operates in Cyprus through a registered company that has Cypriot shareholders, the government said.

Some of the equipment advertised in the report is imported in Cyprus in accordance of the customs and consumption tax law.

“Violation of the law provides for monetary penalties as well as imprisonment and seizure of the products,” the government said.

According to the report, the van, a converted GMC ambulance, can intercept WhatsApp messages, Facebook chats, calls, and all the contents of a smartphone.

Dilian told Forbes that such a vehicle could cost between $3.5m and $9m depending on the equipment a customer wants.

Forbes said Dilian’s equipment, offered as part of his enterprise, Intellexa, is a one-stop-shop, cyber arsenal for cops in the field.

“Alongside Android hacking tools, there’s tech that can recognize your face wherever you travel, listen in on your calls, and locate all the phones in an entire country within minutes, Dilian boasts. Every 15 minutes, he can know where you are, he says.”

 

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