President Nicos Anastasiades said Cyprus has solid institutional frameworks and laws in place to protect people from wiretapping, as well as experts and scientists preventing the issue from taking place.
His comments came after MEPs within the European parliament’s committee of inquiry on Pegasus and other spyware (Pega) arrived in Cyprus on Wednesday to shed light on the ‘spy van’ affair, as well as other spyware cases involving Greece and a company registered in Cyprus.
Addressing the 21st prize giving ceremony of the “Manolis Christofides” award in Nicosia, Anastasiades said he wondered why the Pega committee “is investigating the imaginary involvement of the Republic of Cyprus in spying affairs that takes place in other countries”.
“Not only we can count on an institutional framework that does not allow interceptions, but we also have scientists utilising international funds precisely to combat the phenomenon,” he said.
Anastasiades emphasised the determination shown by the government to invest in the fields of research and innovation, “proving the will to create a modern, sustainable and flexible state”.
He also added that Cyprus was ranked as “strong innovator” by a European Commission annual report for 2022.
“Specifically, Cyprus ranks 10th overall among EU members in the innovation field, recording the largest improvement across member states,” he said, adding that is first at a European level in terms of securing funding for the creation of research centres, within the EU Horizon 2020 Teaming for Excellence Programme.
On Wednesday, attorney general George Savvides said the independent criminal investigator Ilias Stephanou’s findings on the infamous ‘spy van’ case in 2019 cannot be made public as they are part of a criminal investigation.
“There is a difference between an investigative committee and a criminal investigation,” Savvides said.
“Where investigative committee can comment on findings and evidence, criminal investigations are confidential, and its reports protected by the attorney general office.”
Savvides added that the ‘spy van’ case is now officially closed, it cannot be made public, and there are no reasons for reopening it again at the moment.”
Earlier in the day, Pega chairman Jeroen Lanaers, on his part, said he and his team will carefully examine all the answers provided by Cypriot officials on a range of issues, including the ‘spy van’ affair.
“We had an extensive exchange of views with the attorney general, who provided us with an in-depth analysis of the role in the legal system in Cyprus regarding spyware cases, in particular the one that broke out in 2019,” said the Dutch MEP, who added that Savvides disclosed as much as he could on the case.
Lenaers said Pega members will now carefully analyse all the information received in Cyprus before publishing a report on the findings in the context of the European parliament.
Pega is now in Greece to extend their inquiries there.