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Israel firm secretly sold spyware to Bangladesh through a criminal gang

Israeli-made surveillance equipment sold via a convicted criminal is being used by the Bangladeshi government to target political opposition

February 2, 2021 at 1:33 pm

Israeli-made surveillance equipment sold via a convicted criminal is being used by the Bangladeshi government to target political opposition, an Al Jazeera investigation has found. Classified documents obtained by the Investigative Unit of the Gulf news channel show that the Bangladesh army secretly purchased the Israeli equipment in 2018 using a Bangkok-based middleman and a brother of a powerful Bangladeshi crime family closely connected to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Details of the sale of Israeli spyware was one of a number of bombshell revelations reported by Al Jazeera in the hour-long documentary, All the Prime Minister’s Men, which was aired yesterday.  The documentary uncovers how a criminal gang is colluding with Bangladesh’s security forces and profiting from links to Prime Minister Hasina. It exposed how convicted murderer Haris Ahmed, one of the five brothers belonging to a notorious crime family, is at the centre of the deal with an Israeli firm. He is being protected by his older brother General Aziz Ahmed, head of the Bangladesh Army and close confidant of Sheikh Hasina.

Read: What is a former Israeli spy doing in the British Labour Party’s head office?

Steps were taken to conceal details of the deal including the origin of the spyware. Bangladesh has no diplomatic relations with Israel and trade with the Zionist state is prohibited until it ends its military occupation of Palestine. Officially it does not recognise Israel and citizens are banned from travelling there until there is an independent Palestinian state.

The spyware contract involved paperwork that tried to disguise the true nature of the deal and involved front companies. It was, in effect, a deal between the Bangladesh military intelligence agency, the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), and PicSix, an Israel-based firm run by former Israeli intelligence agents. A Bangkok-based Irish national, James Moloney, acted as a middleman.

To conceal the equipment’s origin, the deal listed the country of origin as Hungary, although secret recordings by Al Jazeera show the Bangkok-based middleman acted on behalf of the Israeli firm explicitly saying that the equipment was from Israel. “It’s from Israel, so we don’t advertise that technology,” said Moloney, CEO of a Singapore-registered company called Sovereign Systems. Another contractor can be heard saying: “No way that people in Bangladesh should know that this product comes from Israel.”

Read: Israel spyware firm linked to Khashoggi case used to hack WhatsApp

The contract for the acquisition of the Israeli spyware P6 Intercept was signed one day after Aziz Ahmed, Haris’ brother, became head of the Bangladesh Army. The technology allows for hundreds of mobile phones to be tracked and monitored. Security authorities use the spyware to keep track of attendees during protests and demonstrations. “The technology is very aggressive and intrusive. You don’t want the public to know that you’re using that equipment,” Moloney said.

Keen observers of the growth of spyware technology have argued that the Zionist state, with decades of experience in developing technology to supress Palestinians, has made itself indispensable to despots and dictators that want tried and tested methods of repression to use against their own population.

Concerns over the sale of Israeli technology used to spy on civilians has been raised by Amnesty International. A report by the rights group found that spyware sold by the NSO Group was used to target journalists and activists across the globe – including in Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates.

Read: Saudi dissident to sue Israel spyware firm over Khashoggi murder