NSO group offices

Mexico arrests businessman in Pegasus spyware case

Public Safety Secretary says 31 contracts were signed during administrations of former presidents Felipe Calderon in 2006-2012 and Enrique Peña Nieto in 2012-2018, spending a total of $61 on the malware

Associated Press |
Published: 11.09.21, 08:04
Mexican prosecutors said Monday they have arrested a businessman on charges he used the Pegasus spyware to spy on a journalist.
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  • The software marketed by the Israeli spyware firm NSO Group has been implicated in government surveillance of opponents and journalists around the world.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    NSO בניין
    NSO בניין
    NSO group offices
    (Photo: Reuters)
    Mexico had the largest list, about 15,000 phone numbers, among more than 50,000 reportedly selected by NSO clients for potential surveillance.
    Federal prosecutors announced the arrest on Monday, but did not name the suspect under rules aimed at protecting presumption of innocence.
    A federal official not authorized to be quoted by name said the suspect is Juan Carlos Garcia Rivera, who has been linked to the company Proyectos y Disenos VME and Grupo KBH. He was detained on Nov. 1.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    לוגו NSO
    לוגו NSO
    (Photo: Shutterstock)
    In July, Mexico's top security official said two previous administrations spent $61 million to buy Pegasus spyware.
    Public Safety Secretary Rosa Icela Rodri­guez said records had been found of 31 contracts signed during the administrations of President Felipe Calderon in 2006-2012 and President Enrique Peña Nieto in 2012-2018. Some contracts may have been disguised as purchases of other equipment.
    The government said many of the contracts with the Israeli spyware firm NSO Group were signed with front companies, which are often used in Mexico to facilitate kickbacks or avoid taxes.
    Last week, the government's top anti-money laundering investigator said officials from the two previous administrations had spent about $300 million in government money to purchase spyware. But that figure may reflect all spyware and surveillance purchases, or may include yet-unidentified contracts.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    Then PM Benjamin Netanyahu with former Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto in 2017
    Then PM Benjamin Netanyahu with former Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto in 2017
    Then-PM Benjamin Netanyahu with former Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto in 2017
    (Photo: GPO)
    Santiago Nieto, the head of Mexico's Financial Intelligence Unit, said the bills for programs like the Pegasus spyware appear to have included excess payments that may have been channeled back to government officials as kickbacks.
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