An independent criminal investigator has been appointed to look into the spy-van case, Attorney General Costas Clerides announced on Thursday.
Clerides appointed Elias Stefanou, a former Law Officer and a criminal law expert, as the independent criminal investigator into potential data privacy violations by the Larnaca-based company which owns van equipped with surveillance equipment.
The spy-van is owned by ex-Israeli intelligence officer Tal Dillian and came to light in August through an article in Forbes magazine.
It gained attention in Cyprus in mid-November leading Akel to demand an explanation from the government over the presence of the surveillance vehicle, whether it has offered such services and who granted permission for the provision of such services in Cyprus. In response to the left-wing party, the government said the matter was being investigated by the police.
According to Forbes, the van, a converted GMC ambulance, can intercept WhatsApp messages, Facebook chats, calls, and all the contents of a smartphone. Cyprus law suggests that phone tapping is illegal while written communications can be intercepted under certain circumstances but only with a court order.
It was apparently imported to Cyprus as a van able to read weather conditions.
The government also said the importation and sale of such equipment was regulated by the law on the protection of private communications and violations are punished through penalties, imprisonment and seizure of the products.
The subject of the spy van was brought up by Akel again during the House Finance Committee on Monday when the party criticised the government over the public’s sense of insecurity, following the justice minister’s comments on the need of police officers and judges.