Mexico City. Mexico’s top security official said on Wednesday that the country’s two previous administrations had spent $601 million to buy Pegasus spyware aimed at tracking opposition and journalists.
Public Safety Secretary Rosa Isela Rodriguez said records had been found of 31 contracts signed between the administrations of Felipe Calderón, who was president from 2006 to 2012, and Acarín Pea Nieto, who was president from 2012 to 2018. Some contracts were masked as a purchase of another device.
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The government said several contracts were signed with Israeli spyware company NSO Group with front or shell companies, which are often used in Mexico to exchange bribes or evade taxes.
Shell or front companies are companies that are made only on paper and do not do any official business. These companies are used for money laundering.
Earlier, a top government investigator in money laundering cases said last week that officials from the previous two administrations had spent nearly $300 million in government money to buy spyware.
Santiago Nieto, the head of Mexico’s financial intelligence unit, said that between 2012 and 2018, former administration officials spent $300 million in government funds to buy “spyware” from Israel’s NSO. The ‘bill’ for programs such as Pegasus spyware appears to include additional payments, which may have been sent back as bribes to former government officials.
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Santiago Nieto said on Wednesday that the amount paid and the manner in which he was paid indicated signs of government corruption in the already questioned telephone tapping program. Journalists, activists and opposition figures were targeted for the telephone hacks, including the country’s current President Andres Manuel López Obrador and those close to him at the time.
Nieto said Lopez Obrador took office on December 1, 2018 and vowed not to use ‘spyware’. Since then, there has been no evidence of any such activity being carried out by the present administration. (agency input)
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