‘Spied on by Mitsotakis’: Greek PM under fire over fresh spyware reports

‘Spied on by Mitsotakis’: Greek PM under fire over fresh spyware reports
Credit: George E. Koronaios / Wikimedia Commons

The political spyware scandal in Greece has been reignited after Greek newspaper Documento published a list of 33 people whose mobile phones were reported to have traces of the illegal spyware Predator.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mistotakis is believed to be behind the surveillance operations, with Documento running the headline 'Those spied upon by the Mitsotakis system.' Under the lens are members of the opposition Syriza party, journalists and businesspeople in the media sector.

The revelations come after the Mitsotakis government acknowledged running surveillance operations on politicians and journalists in September. But the government insisted that they had acted within the law and categorically denied purchasing the commercial Predator spyware.

Evidence now shows that victims were indeed targeted by Predator spyware. Once a phone is infected, Predator can record messages and calls, access passwords and see the device's web browsing history.

The software is marketed by the Greek company Intellexa, whose CEO is a former Israeli secret service agent living in Cyprus. The cost of the software has been estimated by Greek media at €14 million.

This weekend's revelations show that surveillance operations extended to Mitsotakis' own ministers, opposition leaders, journalists and business owners. Also bugged by the spyware were spouses of the Ministers of Tourism, Development and Labour.

Editor of Greek newspaper Katherimini, Alexis Papachelas, was also one of the targets and responded by putting out an editorial entitled 'Let the shadows be dispelled'. He states that "Only a thorough and swift enquiry will dispel the shadows it has cast. As long as Greece delays, it will risk going down a very dark path as has happened with similar cases in the past."

European Parliament investigates

Initial surveillance reports from September led the European Parliament Pegasus Inquiry Committee to look into the allegations. Last week, MEPs conducted a fact-finding mission to Greece and Cyprus, where they met with politicians and civil society representatives who presented them with documentation on surveillance and corruption.

The European Parliament is now pushing Athens to open an urgent enquiry into the latest allegations. Within his own country, the Greek PM is facing mounting pressure.

Various aspects of the story require clarification from Greek authorities, who are said to be cooperating with the European Parliament committee. However, Belgian MEP and member of the Pegasus committee, Saskia Bricmont, spoke to Greek media organisation Press Project and accused the government of not properly investigating the allegations. The committee is also calling for reforms to bolster transparency and ensure proper judicial oversight on surveillance.

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Dutch MEP and Pegasus committee rapporteur Sophie in ‘t Veld (Renew, NL) said: "After staying in Cyprus and Greece for almost four days, we leave with perhaps more questions than we had when we arrived.”

MEPs have noted how the intelligence services deleting or not sharing the relevant information has made it harder for them to verify allegations, instead having “to build a puzzle with the pieces available. Luckily there are many pieces to work with.”

The MEP was clear that spying has taken place, with the question remaining on whose behalf: “Either a spyware company itself spied on journalists and opposition figures, or someone in government circles did. The question is: which of the two had the motive, the means and the opportunity?”

"We need clear EU rules for limiting the use of national security as grounds for surveillance and to guarantee a healthy, pluralist media environment," in ‘t Veld concluded.

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