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Justice Committee asked to investigate blacklisted spyware company's presence in Ireland

Barry Andrews has raised his concerns regarding the Intellexa group which has an office at a building on Foley Street in the capital.

THE OIREACHTAS JUSTICE Committee has been asked to investigate the presence of a spyware company in Ireland which has been blacklisted by the US government. 

MEP Barry Andrews made the request about Intellexa Limited, which has an office at a building on Foley Street in Dublin’s north inner city.

It is part of a wider Israeli group which sells controversial spyware technology called Predator, which can activate the microphone and camera of a targeted mobile phone and essentially act as a bug without the knowledge of a user. 

“This is a human rights issue,” Andrews told The Journal, noting that Predator had been used to eavesdrop on journalists and is allegedly being used to exploit vulnerable people. 

“This is about establishing if there are any safeguards in place.”

Intellexa Limited, which has been in Ireland for more than three years, was one of a small number of companies named on a blacklist by the US State Department in recent weeks, which said that it poses a risk to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.

The order prohibits American firms from working with the company. It is part of the Biden administration’s efforts to crack down on spyware. 

Andrews has asked the Committee to look at the broader issues raised by such firms operating in Ireland, as well as the specific presence of Intellexa. 

“This company has been identified by the US authorities and there is clearly a deficit in Irish legislation. The US acted very quickly and there are serious questions about why we are not limiting interactions with such companies,” said Andrews. 

An Irish accountancy firm called Moore had been auditing Intellexa Limited but stepped away from the company once it was placed on the blacklist in July. 

“We no longer act for the named company and have no further comment to make,” the company said in a statement. 

Andrews said that his enquiries have established that there are no employees at the claimed Dublin address of Intellexa.

The Journal found there was no direct way to contact the Dublin office, and a request to the Intellexa group for comment was not answered. 

A Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment spokesperson said that the Intellexa company was not conducting “substantial” business in Ireland.

“Ireland has a robust export control licencing and compliance system in place, operated by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

“While the company in question is an Irish registered company it appears that it is not conducting any substantive business in Ireland and there is no evidence to suggest that its products have been exported from Ireland,” the spokesperson said. 

The US authorities listed Intellexa group as being registered in Greece but further queries also showed that it was in Switzerland, Cyprus and the Virgin Islands. There are also links to the United Arab Emirates. 

The company was founded by Tal Dilian who is a former Israeli special forces and intelligence officer. He set the company up initially in Cyprus. 

So far this year the Greek authorities have been investigating the company and its controversial spyware tech. 

It is understood that the bulk of the business conducted by the company is in the Middle East. 

Sources have said that some of the tech involves small drones capable of harvesting data from phones within a certain proximity. 

In a statement the US State Department said: “The proliferation of commercial spyware poses distinct and growing counterintelligence and security risks to the United States, including to the safety and security of US government personnel and their families.

“The misuse of these tools globally has also facilitated repression and enabled human rights abuses, including to intimidate political opponents and curb dissent, limit freedom of expression, and monitor and target activists and journalists.”