Please enable JavaScript to experience the full functionality of mail.com.

Cyprus police arrest 3 employees of Israeli-owned firm

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus police on Thursday arrested three employees of a high-tech surveillance equipment company owned by an Israeli former intelligence officer amid a probe of the firm's business activities.

Police said the two men and one woman, ages 30, 35 and 41, were under investigation for suspected breaches of private communication and personal data laws. They face 13 possible charges, including conspiracy to commit a criminal act and obtaining registration under false pretenses, Cyprus police said.

All three are due to appear in court on Friday for a custody hearing. Police launched a probe of the company, Cyprus-registered WiSpear, following reports that alleged a van supposedly crammed with sophisticated surveillance technology was used to spy on people on the east Mediterranean island nation.

WiSpear has denied any wrongdoing, saying it neither sold nor rented “intelligence systems” to Cypriot authorities and doesn't provide “intelligence services” for clients. The company said the van was used on Cyprus only for demonstration purposes and field testing and with the knowledge of local authorities.

Concerns about the van, which authorities confiscated, were first raised by the leader of the communist-rooted party AKEL. Cyprus' attorney general, Costas Clerides, appointed an independent criminal investigator to help police. Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said he would “never tolerate” violations of anyone's privacy.

WiSpear was incorporated in 2013 and began operating four years later. It is run by Tal Dillian, an Israeli who an earlier Forbes video showed boasting about the vehicle's surveillance capabilities. In a statement issued two weeks ago, Dillian described a “witch hunt” against him and insisted that his company didn't commit “any illegal activity whatsoever."

He faulted Cypriot investigators for “either stalling” or lacking “the necessary technical expertise" to handle the case and charged that law enforcement was either being “influenced by the media" or “coming under pressure" by unnamed “parties” to issue arrest warrants.

“Given the fact that our company is a Cypriot company, it is now very clear that the hostility, especially from certain political parties, is targeting our Israeli ethnicity and aims to destabilize Cypro-Israeli relations," Dillian said.

Dillian said any arrests would be “legally unjustifiable” and insisted that he fully cooperated with investigators from the outset of the probe. He added that he was considering moving his business out of Cyprus, saying “this kind of behavior by Cypriot authorities will hurt the country appealing to any foreign investors and international companies.”

Sponsored Content