Advanced surveillance equipment, developed by a company in Cyprus controlled by the former commander of Israel's intelligence technology unit, was sold last year to the government of Bangladesh, official government documents and international export records show, despite the fact that Bangladesh is not on the list of of Israel's countries that this technology can be sold to because of its poor human rights record.
According to Israel's Haaretz, the equipment, which is used to monitor mobile and internet traffic, was sold to the National Telecommunications Monitoring Center, or NTMC, an arm of Bangladesh's Ministry of Interior responsible for monitoring internet and media use social networking within the country, as well as for online censorship and citizen wiretapping.
Bangladesh is the third largest Muslim country in the world and does not recognize Israel. The two countries do not have diplomatic relations, and until 2021, all Bangladeshi passports were marked with “This passport is valid for all countries in the world except Israel.''
Passitora, a company registered in Cyprus, is controlled by Tal Dilian, an Israeli businessman and former intelligence commander. Formerly known as WiSpear, it was embroiled in a scandal that began with an interview Dillian gave to Forbes in which he revealed the existence of the company's SpearHead system, which includes a truck equipped with tracking equipment and tracking software that collects data . from mobile phones over mobile and Wi-Fi networks, including encrypted WhatsApp messages, Facebook chats, contact lists, calls and text messages within a radius of about half a kilometer. A presentation on WiSpear claims that the system can be used to inject spyware into computers and mobile phones within its range.
The Forbes article
The Forbes story embarrassed the government in Cyprus, created political turmoil and led to an investigation into violations of European Union privacy laws. Ultimately, all charges against Dilian and top company executives were dismissed, but WiSpear was fined one million euros (about $1.1 million) for "illegal data extraction" from devices of passers-by at Larnaca airport.
Export records show that in June 2022, a SpearHead system was delivered from Switzerland to the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka. The supplier was Passitora and the buyer was NTMC. The shipment, weighing 991 kilograms, included the interception system, operating software and hardware components (servers, disk drives, monitors, etc.) totaling $5.7 million.
Passitora is part of the Intellexa Alliance, a network of companies run by Dilian that has acquired a range of sophisticated surveillance technologies, including mobile phone-tapping software, that it sells to government agencies around the world. A Haaretz investigation uncovered the network and a plane linked to Dilian that delivered advanced spy equipment to a notorious militia in Sudan in May 2022.
Educational trips to Greece
In June 2021, the Bangladesh Cabinet decided to purchase a Vehicle Mounted Mobile Interceptor spy vehicle, which is equipped with, among other things, technology to intercept calls and text messages from mobile phones, locate the user and hack into wireless networks. According to an official cabinet document, two companies submitted a bid to supply the technology and the one selected was a Swiss company, Toru Group Limited.
There is no company with this name on the Swiss company register, but a company with this name is registered in the British Virgin Islands. He has an address in Geneva that is used by a company that provides overseas registration services for companies. […]
Official documents from Bangladesh's Ministry of Interior reveal that the NTMC commander and other senior officials flew to Greece in 2021 and 2022 to train on the spy vehicle they had purchased. According to the documents, the trips were "fully funded by Toru".
By then, Dilian had already moved his headquarters to Athens after his entanglements in Cyprus. According to earlier reports, the office had set aside an area with prayer mats for teams coming for training from Muslim countries such as Bangladesh.
NTMC's budget shows the system was expected to arrive in Bangladesh in mid- 2022. Shipping documents show the system was delivered in late June. Two sources in Bangladesh say a new, advanced spy van is already in operation, with its surveillance tools leading to the firing of seven police officers who allegedly criticized the government in a secret WhatsApp group and communicated with figures in the opposition BNP party.
Passitora and Dilian did not respond to requests for comment. When asked for a response, Elias hung up and declined to comment.