A draft report by a European Parliament committee investigating the Pegasus and other spyware scandals has lifted the lid on a number of global spyware chiefs’ proclivity for Malta, its passports for cash programme and its welcoming company registration regime.
“Malta seems to be a popular destination for some protagonists of the [global spyware] trade,” a report drafted by the EP’s Committee of Inquiry to investigate the use of Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spyware (PEGA) has found.
The committee added, “Several key figures from the spyware trade have registered a business in Malta or they have obtained Maltese passports, but it seems they do not actually reside there, nor do their companies seem to be active.”
The committee’s report names Intellexa spyware consortium founder Tal Dilian. Dillian, who had a career in the Israeli Defence Force, acquired Maltese citizenship 2017 and co-owns what appears to be a shell company registered at an apparent fiduciary firm in Malta, according to additional research conducted by The Shift News.
The Predator spyware is sold through Intellexa – a consortium of spyware vendors set up by Dillian in Cyprus – that has presences in Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, and France. The spyware, like Pegasus, is alleged to have been used by governments in the EU and across the world to hack into the phones and access the data of journalists, politicians, NGOs and public officials.
The report also names Russian-Israeli citizen and former Israeli military engineer Anatoly Hurgin of Pegasus spyware scandal notoriety, who acquired Maltese citizenship for himself and three family members in 2015.
The EP report notes specifically how, “At the time of his application for a Maltese passport, he was already under investigation for various crimes.”
It goes into detail how, as founder of Ability Ltd, which cooperated with NSO Group on the Pegasus spyware, he handled the network side of operations at NSO. MEPs recalled that, in 2017, Ability Ltd had been placed under investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission for allegedly lying about its finances and that it had also nearly been delisted from the NASDAQ.
Former Intellexa owner and employee, Greek national Felix Bitzios, who was meanwhile involved in the Piraeus/Libra fraud scandal, is a director of a Malta-based company, Baywest Business Europe Ltd. That company, in turn, is 99.9166 per cent owned by a company of the same name registered in the British Virgin Islands, according to additional research carried out by The Shifts News.
The report also mentions the Malta-registered Baywest Business Europe Ltd legal representative Stanislaw Szymon Pelczar Ltd as being the former administrator of Krikel, which was mentioned in the Paradise Papers.
Peter Thiel, Sebastian Kurz, Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and Malta
It is by now a well-known fact that American billionaire Peter Thiel recently applied for Maltese citizenship, but the EP committee’s report goes to some length to spell out the connections between the well-known Donald Trump sponsor, the spyware trade and Malta.
It notes how Thiel – the founder of PayPal alongside Elon Musk – recently hired former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz as a strategist. It also notes that Thiel filed his Maltese passport application shortly after the announcement of a partnership between Kurz and former NSO chief executive officer Shalev Hulio.
Thiel was the first outside investor into Facebook, and the report highlights how he was also the founder of Palantir, which was connected to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the data of Maltese citizens was the most harvested, pro rata, in the whole of the EU.
In all, the personal data from more than 6,000 Maltese Facebook users was shared the analytics firm, Facebook had confirmed with then-EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova in April 2018.
Such data was collected through mobile applications across much of the EU, the UK and the US and was used as a “psychological warfare tool”, according to the political scandal’s whistleblower, in the electoral campaigns of Donald Trump in 2016 in the US and of Joseph Muscat in 2013, among others.
In 2019 the UK’s Parliamentary Committee for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport confirmed links and dealings between Cambridge Analytica’s SCL Group, Malta’s cash for passports concessionaire Henley & Partners chairman Christian Kalin and Joseph Muscat as early as before the 2013 Maltese elections.
The Committee’s report found, “We understand that SCL certainly had meetings in Malta and that Christian Kalin of Henley & Partners was introduced by SCL to Joseph Muscat in 2011, and that Christian Kalin met with both political parties before 2013.”