Cyprus: Independent investigator to assist ‘spy van’ probe
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus’ attorney general on Thursday appointed an independent criminal investigator to assist police in their investigation of a surveillance van that’s owned by a company whose Israeli chief executive is a former intelligence officer.
Attorney-General Costas Clerides said in a statement that his decision to appoint lawyer Elias Stephanou was made due to the seriousness of the case and the legal angles that have sprung up throughout the probe.
Police are investigating whether Cyprus-registered WiSpear breached any privacy laws following local media reports that alleged the van — which authorities have confiscated — was used to spy on people on the eastern Mediterranean island nation.
WiSpear strenuously denied such reports, saying that it has neither sold nor rented “intelligence systems” to Cypriot authorities nor does it provide “intelligence services” to clients.
“The sole scope of the company is that of selling products and technology it develops,” WiSpear said in a statement last week.
It said that the van had only been used in Cyprus in the last year for demonstration and field-testing purposes on company-owned devices and with the knowledge of local authorities.
WiSpear was incorporated in 2013 and began operating four years later. It is run by Tal Dilian, an Israeli who an earlier Forbes video showed boasting about the $9 million (€8.18 million) van’s sophisticated surveillance equipment.
A WiSpear spokeswoman confirmed to the Associated Press that Dilian had spent more than two decades in Israeli military intelligence.
The matter had prompted Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to meet last week with the justice minister, the chief of police and the leader of the communist-rooted party AKEL that first raised concerns about the van’s activities.
Anastasiades has said that he would “never tolerate” violations of anyone’s privacy.
Police Chief Kypros Michaelides said his force had links with WiSpear “just like any other company, or organizations, or a firm that deal with private security issues.” But he insisted those links don’t obstruct investigators from proceeding with their probe.