Spyware vendor attacks EU on the eve of Greek elections

Spyware vendor attacks EU on the eve of Greek elections
Credit: Belga / Frederic Andrieu

With only days remaining until the Greek national elections on Sunday, the spyware vendor Intellexa at the heart of the country's surveillance scandal has launched an attack on the European Parliament, calling it “flawed” and illegitimate.

On Wednesday, Intellexa penned a strongly-worded letter to the European Parliament committee investigating the use of spyware in the EU (PEGA), and is threatening legal action over the committee’s Draft Report, adopted last Monday, which shone a light on its Predator spyware and links to the ruling New Democracy and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Since the Predator spyware was exposed during a routine cybersecurity check on the phone of centre-left MEP Nikos Androulakis (PASOK - S&D) at the European Parliament, Mitsotakis has faced numerous allegations pertaining to the deployment of Predator spyware against opposition politicians, journalists, business leaders – and even his own ministers.

Last week, Mitsotakis admitted for the first time that wiretapping the PASOK opposition leader was wrong and had no grounding in national security concerns. Meanwhile, Androulakis said in a TV debate on Monday that "every Greek citizen has understood that I am not a danger to the Republic. I was a danger to the New Democracy, that's why they watched me during our internal party elections."

Nikos Androulakis MEP during the debate on erosion of the rule of law in Greece: the wiretapping scandal and media freedom. Credit: EP Photo

The PEGA committee of the European Parliament voted, with an overwhelming majority, to pass the report and the accompanying text containing strict recommendations to Greece.

"All progressive forces in the European Parliament hold the government and Mitsotakis accountable for the EYP-Predator surveillance, with the EPP voting against and the far-right abstaining," opposition party Syriza stated in response to the vote.

However, on Wednesday, it emerged that Intellexa had sent letters to the PEGA committee threatening legal action over certain facts in the Draft Report– which the company calls “supposed findings” – that explicitly mention the company and spyware product.

Using EPP as a political shield

Despite having refused to engage with members of the PEGA committee during the investigation, the company claims it has always acted “in transparency” in accordance with Greek law and EU regulation, and that PEGA’s Draft Report “violated the rights of Intellexa SA.”

The company, led by former Israeli intelligence officers, launched an offensive into the workings of a European Parliament committee, calling it a “flawed process” and stating it “cannot accept its legitimacy.”

The company disputed the mandate of the European Parliament, insisting it will continue to collaborate with the Greek authorities in its investigations, despite the scandal having been discovered by the European Parliament itself during a cybersecurity check of the infected phone of an elected representative.

To bolster its case that the report is the result of political bias, Intellexa referred to interventions made in plenary by Greek New Democracy MEPs – all from the same party as Mitsotakis – Elissavet Vozemberg-Vrionidi, Anna-Michelle Asimakopolou and head of the Greek EPP delegation, Vangelis Meimarakis.

PM Mitsotakis with EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders in March 2023. Credit: Office of the Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic

Most of the interventions made by MEPs argue that the investigation and subsequent report were "unfair," "targeting Greece" and the result of "the left wishing to influence the outcome of the election."

By using the political line of the EPP as a shield, Intellexa claimed it has not breached EU laws on fundamental rights and insinuated that, contrary to the evidence provided by the committee, its operations are not a threat to democratic norms.

In response to the letter, the rapporteur for the PEGA Committee Sophie in ’t Veld reiterated that the company has been repeatedly invited to provide answers to the committee but never responded. “Now Intellexa’s lawyers are writing letters hinting at legal action. These attempts to intimidate a democratic institution are unacceptable. (And will not work).”

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The leader of PASOK, Androulakis, himself a target of Mitsotakis’ surveillance system, said in February 2023 in the European Parliament: “After the revelations, they publicly said that they were seeking to bring everything to light, but all we saw was darkness and an attempt to incriminate the victims.”

In his speech, Androulakis also gave an account of how the government was impeding the internal investigation in Greece: “They undermined the work of the committee of inquiry in the Greek Parliament by excluding the critical witnesses and by invoking secrecy.”

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