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Mexico Says Officials Spent $61 Million On Pegasus Spyware

Mexico’s top security official said Wednesday that two previous administrations spent $61 million to buy Pegasus spyware that has been implicated in government surveillance of opponents and journalists around the world. PBS reports: Public Safety Secretary Rosa Icela Rodriguez said records had been found of 31 contracts signed during the administrations of President Felipe Calderon in 2006-2012 and President Enrique Pena Nieto in 2012-18. Some contracts may have been disguised as purchases of other equipment. The government said many of the contracts with the Israeli spyware firm NSO Group were signed with front companies, which are often used in Mexico to facilitate kickbacks or avoid taxes.

Last week, the government’s top anti-money laundering investigator said officials from the two previous administrations had spent about $300 million in government money to purchase spyware. But that figure may reflect all spyware and surveillance purchases, or may include yet-unidentified contracts. Santiago Nieto, the head of Mexico’s Financial Intelligence Unit, said the bills for programs like the Pegasus spyware appear to have included excess payments that may have been channeled back to government officials as kickbacks. Nieto said the amounts paid, and the way they were paid, suggested government corruption in an already questionable telephone tapping program that targeted journalists, activists and opposition figures, who at the time included now President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and his inner circle. The report notes that Mexico “had the largest list — about 700 phone numbers — among the thousands reportedly selected by NSO clients for potential surveillance.”


Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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