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Intelligence firm owned by ex-Israel officer supplied Sudan militia with surveillance tech

December 1, 2022 at 8:21 pm

Illustration file picture shows a man typing on a computer keyboard, 19 September 2019 [REUTERS/Kacper Pempel]

An intelligence firm owned by a former Israeli army intelligence officer has supplied surveillance equipment to a Sudanese militia accused of committing war crimes, an investigation has found.

According to an investigative report by Lighthouse Reports, in collaboration with the Israel newspaper Haaretz and the Greek outlet Inside Story, the firm named Intellexa transferred high-end phone surveillance equipment to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, in May this year by a Cessna private jet.

The investigation, citing three independent sources, found that the phone-hacking equipment was supplied to the Rapid Support Forces militia, infamous for its alleged war crimes in the western Darfur region and its suppression of pro-democracy protests following the overthrow of long-time dictator, Omar Al-Bashir.

The militia is led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who reportedly spent two days in Israel last year in order to discuss the ongoing establishment of relations and warming ties between Tel Aviv and Khartoum.

The private jet and its transfer of the equipment was identified by journalists through a selfie uploaded by an Intellexa engineer to social media. Flight records then linked the plane to Tal Dilian – a former senior Israeli military intelligence officer – and his colleagues, including a prominent figure named Merom Harpaz.

Currently living in Cyprus, Dilian founded Intellexa in 2019 as a shadowy conglomerate of surveillance tech companies, some of which have been targeted and investigated by authorities in various countries over alleged violations.

READ: Violence in Darfur, Blue Nile adds to the worsening humanitarian crisis in Sudan

Stating in October last year that it provides “covert mass collection” and systems “to access target devices and networks” via Wi-Fi and wireless networks, the firm’s tools are reportedly used by various law enforcement and intelligence agencies for counter-terrorism purposes and to combat financial fraud.

Although it claims it is regulated by the European Union (EU), the firm is reportedly far more dangerous than other Israeli surveillance companies, such as the infamous NSO Group with its globally-distributed spyware. Due to its lack of official presence in Israel and the fact it has no listed location of headquarters, Intellexa is not bound by Israeli legal restrictions.

According to one of the sources cited in the report, “NSO worked in accordance with Israeli law and, at times, even on behalf of the State of Israel. Ethically both this firm and the Israeli policy were questionable as sales were made to oppressive regimes — but it was regulated. Intellexa, on the other hand, does not follow Israeli law and sells to similar but also worse clients — including those that are a risk to Israel’s own national interest. A company that does not abide by Israeli law and is not subject to any regulator is de facto a pirate organisation”.

While the extent of Intellexa’s supplies to Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces militia is not yet fully known, senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute, Anette Hoffman, said that its software could be used to “exacerbate the brutal repression and killing of Sudan’s remarkably brave protestors and squash hopes for democracy in the region”.

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