Greece to ban sale of spyware amid wiretapping scandal

By Renee Maltezou and George Georgiopoulos

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece will soon ban the sale of spyware, the government said on Monday, after a newspaper report that more than 30 people, including ministers and business people, had been under state surveillance via phone malware.

A list of persons whose phones were allegedly infected with the Predator malware was published on Sunday by left-wing Documento newspaper, which cited two sources who played a role in the surveillance on behalf of the conservative government.

Government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said the report that the government was behind the spyware surveillance was “unfounded”. He said the Greek state had not used or bought any such spyware and added that judicial authorities would investigate the latest report.

Greece, he told reporters, will soon submit a bill to parliament banning the sale of spyware. “We won’t allow any shadow to remain on issues that poison Greek society,” he said.

The Documento report was the latest development in a wiretapping scandal that has sparked political uproar in Greece, as the European Union takes a harder look at the use and sale of spyware. A Greek prosecutor began an inquiry earlier this year.

Most of the alleged targets, including a former conservative prime minister and the current foreign and finance ministers, declined to comment or told the newspaper that they were unaware of the matter.

In July, socialist opposition leader Nikos Androulakis filed a complaint with top court prosecutors over an attempted bugging of his mobile phone with surveillance software. The government, which faces elections in 2023, said at the time that the surveillance was lawful as it had been approved by a prosecutor.

A Greek prosecutor is also investigating allegations by a journalist that his smartphone was infected by surveillance software in an operation by the Greek intelligence service.

A special European parliamentary committee (PEGA) that is investigating the use of Pegasus and similar surveillance spyware concluded a visit to Greece and Cyprus last week.

“This matter must be urgently and fully clarified before next year’s elections,” Sophia In ‘T Veld, from the committee delegation, told reporters in Greece.