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Greek spy chief quits amid Predator spyware row

August 5, 2022

The head of the Greek intelligence service has stepped down during a scandal after a reported attempt to spy on an opposition politician. The resignation came amid swirling accusations about the use of Predator software.

Panagiotis Kontoleon, the head of Greece's intelligence service attends a meeting at the Greek Parliament in Athens
The government said Kontoleon offered his resignation due to management 'errors'Image: Yiannis Panagopoulos/Eurokinissi/AP/picture alliance

The Greek government on Friday said the resignation of Panagiotis Kontoleon — who led the National Intelligence Service, the EYP —  had been accepted.

The government has come under pressure to be more transparent about the use of surveillance malware, which can infiltrate mobile phones to retrieve data or activate cameras or microphones to spy on their owners.

What's behind the resignation?

The prime minister's office said in a statement that Kontoleon had quit "following mistaken actions found during lawful wiretapping procedures."

The resignation came hours after Grigoris Dimitriadis, the secretary general of the prime minister's office — to which the EYP reports — also resigned.

The AP news agency cited a government official who denied that the resignation was linked to a complaint about spyware. The official said it was, instead, "related to the toxic climate that has developed around him [Kontoleon]. In no case does it have anything to do with Predator [spyware], to which neither he nor the government is in any way connected.''

Kontoleon was appointed to head the intelligence service in 2019, after Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' conservative New Democracy party took power that year.

Athens says authorities don't use the Predator spyware, which was reportedly deployed against members of the European Parliament, and that the Greek government does not deal with businesses that sell it.

Pegasus: the invisible spy


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Legal action from party leader

The two resignations came a week after the leader of Greece's Socialist opposition PASOK party, Nikos Androulakis, lodged a supreme court action following attempted spying on his mobile phone.

PASOK is Greece's third-largest political party, and Androulakis is a deputy in the European Parliament. Androulakis said he felt it was a "democratic duty" to reveal "who is behind such sick practices."

Androulakis said he had been informed by the European Parliament of an attempt to bug his phone with Predator surveillance software.

In June, Androulakis had used a special service set up by the European Parliament to check phones for spyware or attempts to install it. The initiative was introduced after other hacks that used spyware similar to Predator, called Pegasus.

"From the first check, a suspicious link related to the Predator surveillance tool was detected," his PASOK party said in a statement.

According to a report by Toronto University's Citizen Lab, which tracks the spyware industry, Androulakis was sent a link that was a trap to allow the installation of Predator. Androulakis did not respond to the invitation and so managed to avoid being bugged.

PASOK officials say it was a serious attempt to violate private telecommunications.

Spain's intelligence boss was fired after the targeted hacking of phones, including that of PM Pedro SanchezImage: John Thys/AP Photo/picture alliance

Earlier this year, the intelligence boss of fellow EU member state Spain was fired after it emerged that phone hacking had targeted top politicians — including Catalan separatists and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

rc/nm (dpa, AFP, AP)

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