Claiming to have found the ‘smoking gun’ linking Cyprus to the political espionage scandal in Greece, main opposition Akel has slammed the government for continuing to stay in denial.
Akel were commenting on an extensive report published by daily Phileleftheros earlier this week, purporting to have discovered a firm connection between Cyprus and the company which developed the Predator spyware said to have been deployed to eavesdrop on an opposition politician and a journalist in Greece.
In June the alleged target of the eavesdropping, Nikos Androulakis – an MEP and head of Greece’s socialist Pasok party – had used a special service set up by the European Parliament to check phones for spyware or attempts to install it. The initiative was introduced after other hacks that used spyware similar to Predator, called Pegasus.
According to a report by Toronto University’s Citizen Lab, which tracks the spyware industry, Androulakis was sent a link that was a trap to allow the installation of Predator. Androulakis did not respond to the invitation and so managed to avoid being bugged.
A December 2021 report by Citizen Lab said Predator was developed by a company called Cytrox.
The report quoted a 2019 article in Forbes, which stated that “Cytrox was ‘rescued’ by Tal Dilian, a former Israel Defence Forces Unit 81 commander, whose company WiSpear (which appears to have been renamed Passitora Ltd.) is based in Limassol, Cyprus and reportedly acquired Cytrox in 2018.
“Dilian is also the founder and CEO of Intellexa,” Citizen Lab reported.
“Cytrox is part of the so-called ‘Intellexa alliance’, a marketing label for a range of mercenary surveillance vendors that emerged in 2019. The consortium of companies includes Nexa Technologies (formerly Amesys), WiSpear/Passitora Ltd., Cytrox, and Senpai…”
Dilian is the same individual implicated in the late 2019 ‘spy van’ affair here in Cyprus. He and two others were charged in connection with the case, but the attorney-general subsequently dropped the prosecution.
After the scandal in Greece broke, the government in Nicosia waved off the notion that the case had connections to Cyprus, as claimed by Akel.
Now, according to Phileleftheros, new information has come to light showing a direct link between the two affairs. Looking at open-source documents – such as the records from the Registrar of Companies – the newspaper identified another company by the name of Poltrex Ltd, registered in Cyprus.
Poltrex was established on October 3, 2018, its sole shareholder listed as Intellexa Ltd, registered in the British Virgin Islands. On September 1, 2019, the director and secretary of the company was Israeli national Shahak Avraham Avni – an associate of Dilian’s and one of the persons questioned by police in Cyprus in connection to the spy van case.
On October 16, 2019, Poltrex was renamed to Alchemycorp Ltd, with Dilian and Avni listed as co-owners and co-directors. Then, on February 24, 2020 – while the investigation by Cypriot police was ongoing – Dilian and Avni transferred ownership of the entity to Yaron Levgoren.
However, Phileftheros said, despite the name change the address of the company remained the same – 1 Alexandrou Panagouli Street, Novel Tower, 6057, Larnaca. This was the same building hosting WiSpear – Dilian’s company.
Levgoren meanwhile – whom the paper described as the ‘key man’ – is a permanent resident of Canada, and currently an officer with Cytrox Holdings Zrt – a corporation registered in Hungary.
Phileleftheros sought a comment from the government about its new findings. In a statement, government spokesman Marios Pelekano again denied any link between the Predator spyware and Cyprus.
“Connecting our country to events happening abroad, and without substantiation, needlessly tarnishes our country internationally,” Pelekanos said.
The paper also brought the new information to the attention of attorney-general Giorgos Savvides. He responded that “should any evidence arise implicating Cyprus in activities, which point to potential criminal offences, then we will duly investigate.”