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Supreme Court cancels warrants in spy van case

The van

The supreme court has cancelled three arrest warrants and a search warrant relating to a police investigation into the operation of a van with covert surveillance capabilities, arguing that the court that granted the orders in December 2019 had not been justified to do so.

All three suspects arrested at the time were released the next day, December 20, after another court refused to grant the police a remand request, saying the investigation had been ongoing for about a month and they had all the time since to influence any witnesses if they wanted to.

Police said one of the male suspects was a programmer working for WS Wispear Systems Ltd, the company the van belonged to, while the other was a warehouse manager.

The woman was the director’s assistant but also a director of other companies housed in the same building as Wispear.

In its decision, the supreme court said the police affidavit that secured the warrants did not specify the offences under investigation “against each of the plaintiffs nor the items being sought.”

The search warrant concerned the home and car of one of the suspects at the time.

The supreme court said it was obvious that the objective of the warrants had not been to serve the investigation, “which appeared to have been completed by that time.”

“After all, there is no reference in the affidavit, to any evidence that would justify the arrest of the suspects or the search of the home and car” of one of them.

“The affidavit in question was not supported by any evidence that showed the necessity of issuing the warrants for the reasons included in it.”

Police launched an investigation after the owner of the company gave an interview to Forbes essentially advertising his services, which included covert surveillance and eavesdropping, among others.

The van has since been seized, while police are investigating potential violations of privacy.

The owners claimed the van has not been active on Cypriot territory apart from field tests and demonstration purposes using only company-owned devices and under the guidelines and acknowledgement of local authorities.

The vehicle, a converted GMC ambulance, is said to be loaded with gear capable of hacking smart phones and intercepting electronic communications within a one-kilometre radius.

The owner’s defence had said that the authorities were kept informed each time the van was moved and revealed that senior police officers, including from the drug squad, had been onboard at times.

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