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British Gas pension money used for buying Israeli spyware NSO Group

A British Gas sign on January 02, 2022 in Leicester, England [Nathan Stirk/Getty Images]
A British Gas sign on January 02, 2022 in Leicester, England [Nathan Stirk/Getty Images]

Pension money for staff at the energy company, British Gas, was used for buying shares in the Israeli spyware developer, NSO Group, which was responsible for the hacking of tens of thousands of people's devices over the years, a report has revealed.

According to the Financial Times newspaper, the retirement investment fund and parent company of British Gas – Centrica – was one of the largest contributors to an investment stake in the NSO Group in 2019.

That contribution amounted to a staggering 1 billion euros, with Centrica's fund also having allocated the pension wealth to a private equity fund raised by another firm named Novalpina Capital, which owns a 70 per cent stake in NSO Group.

The paper cited two people with knowledge on the matter as saying that Centrica's Combined Common Investment Fund has a seat on a committee of Novalpina's biggest investors, each of whom contributes tens of millions of euros, at the very least.

OPINION: Could an Apple lawsuit mean the end of Israeli cybercriminals NSO?

The NSO Group has been made infamous over the past few years due to its hacking scandals, particularly in July last year when the University of Toronto's internet watchdog, Citizen Lab, exposed its client governments' misuse of the Pegasus spyware through the hacking of around 50,000 phones and devices belonging to journalists, human rights activists and political critics worldwide.

British Gas's staff pensions going towards a company implicated in such scandals – especially in a company blacklisted by the United States – is seen as being directly linked to human rights abuse and the misuse of spyware by various governments.

This is not the first time pension money has been used to buy shares in such companies, with Amnesty International in October addressing a number of other retirement funds for contributing to Novalpina's fund. Those firms included two American ones, Oregon's public employee retirement system and Alaska's $81bn permanent funds, and two English local government ones, East Riding Pension Fund and the South Yorkshire Pensions Authority.

READ: Poland admits using Israel's Pegasus spyware

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