Leaked Hacking Team emails show Saudi Arabia wanted to buy the company

Emails stolen in the Hacking Team breach and leaked online by the still unknown attackers continue to be analyzed, and offer insight into the inner workings and controversial relationships the infamous Italian spyware maker engaged in.

Among the most recent and explosive revelations is that in 2013, investment company Safinvest was in talks with Hacking Team about buying the company.

Philip Willan reports that Wafic Said, a Syria-born, UK-based businessman who heads Safinvest and is also a close friend of the Saudi royal family, was apparently set on making the deal.

But the arrangement ultimately fell through in early 2014, after Prince Bandar bin Sultan was removed from his post as director general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency.

According to the emails, Hacking Team CEO David Vincenzetti was in favour of the deal, and was aiming to move the “new” company to a country that did not sign the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies, so that their technology can be exported anywhere without a problem.

Former US ambassador to Italy Ronald Spogli, who had a 10 percent stake in an investment company that controlled 26 percent of Hacking Team, was apparently also involved in the negotiations. There is no evidence in the emails that the Italian government knew anything about them.

It seems likely that if the deal had been completed, the Saudi government would have access to the Hacking Team technology. Unhindered by the Wassenaar Arrangement, the company would be free to sell its wares to other repressive regimes.

Hacking Team spokesman Eric Rabe noted that the arrangement was never close to be concluded, and added that even if the company’s technology is sold to repressive regimes, it does not mean that it will be used to spy on political dissidents.

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