Several key figures from the global spyware trade “acquired Maltese citizenship which facilitates their operations within and from the Union”, according to the European Parliament’s Pegasus spyware committee.
The EP’s ‘Committee of Inquiry to investigate the use of Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spyware’ (PEGA) has included the warning in a resolution that will go before the plenary session next month in the week starting 12 June.
The Committee says it “can be safely assumed” that all EU member states “have purchased or used one or more spyware systems”. Not all governments, it added, will refrain from the illegitimate use of spyware and that, in the absence of a solid legal framework, including safeguards and oversight “the risk of abuse is very high”.
Malta’s legal framework in the area of safeguards and oversight is flimsy and loophole-ridden at best.
Malta is, in fact, refusing to answer the Committee’s questions about the government’s use of spyware and the legislation governing its use, authorisation and supervision.
It is asking the European Commission what it intends to do about Malta’s refusal to answer and for breaching its duty of ‘sincere and loyal cooperation’.
Malta’s refusal to answer the Committee’s questions came after its parliamentary report exposed global spyware chiefs’ growing interest in Malta, its cash for passports programme and its welcoming company registration regime.
Malta completely ignoring the Committee’s questions, according to PEGA Committee Chair Dutch EPP MEP Jeroen Lenaers, is “unacceptable when we are asking simple, straightforward questions that any government should be able to answer. We are not asking for state secrets.
“Hundreds of millions of Europeans that we represent deserve answers, which are very difficult to give if the governments that purchase and use this software refuse to answer even the most basic questions. This is a scandal.”
The Committee is now asking the Commission to take steps against Malta for breaching its duty of ‘sincere and loyal cooperation’ and when it will take action to address the “violation”.
Key spyware figures converging in Malta
In its report on the growing spyware scandal, the Committee singled out Malta as “a popular destination for some protagonists of the [global spyware] trade”.
The report follows a year-long inquiry into the abuse of spyware in the EU.
MEPs condemned spyware abuses that “aim to intimidate political opposition, silence critical media and manipulate elections.
A vote on the report was passed through the Committee with 30 in favour, three against, and four abstentions
The Committee’s report names Intellexa spyware consortium founder Tal Dilian. Dilian, who had a career in the Israeli Defence Force, acquired Maltese citizenship in 2017 and co-owns what appears to be a shell company registered at an apparent fiduciary firm in Malta, according to research conducted by The Shift News.
The infamous Predator spyware is sold through Intellexa – a consortium of spyware vendors set up by Dilian 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 noted specifically how, “At the time of his application for a Maltese passport, he was already under investigation for various crimes.”
The draft report goes into detail about how as the 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 The Shift’s research.
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.
Thiel, Kurz, Facebook and Cambridge Analytica
American billionaire Peter Thiel has applied for Maltese citizenship, as is well-known, and the report spells out the connections between the Donald Trump sponsor, the spyware trade and Malta.
It notes how Thiel – the founder of PayPal alongside Elon Musk – employed 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 Group chief executive officer Shalev Hulio.
Thiel was Facebook’s first outside investor and the founder of Palantir. The latter 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 before the election of Donald Trump in 2016 and of Joseph Muscat in 2013.
welcome to mafiamalta – the island of corrupt oligarchs, assassins and fraudsters. EU for pete’s sake WAKE UP – do your duty as all honest Europeans paying taxes demand it of you, otherwise trust in the EU will be lost and the only solution will be revolutions.
Our country our mother land was sold to any one with money without looking who we are letting into our house. This alone without looking into all the scandals and loss of life should be an eye opener to many. If today there are people who still support the Gov then they must either be pocketing, given a job or daft. . .
Unless The EU shows some spine and bares its teeth and threatens to withhold allocated funds, this corrupt government will dance circles and will never comply to existing and/or proposed new rules.
The passport racket has been going on for 10 years, criminals within the government’s wider circle have received hefty commissions and became millionaires overnight.
The EU must put its foot down and tell Abela that enough is beyond enough, and prohibit the scandalous sale of EU passports for cash – dirty cash!
Get these lazy, incompetent ‘second-hand car dealers’, to get a real job and earn their keep through honest and hard work not just posing for pictures for sympathetic news media.