London Art Gallery Director Forced Out Over Investments in Israeli Cyberattack Firm NSO

The head of Serpentine art galleries had shares in a private equity fund that has been accused of working on behalf of anti-democratic regimes and is the controlling shareholder in NSO, the Guardian reports

FILE Photo: The head of London's Serpentine Galleries, Yana Peel in California, 2018.
AFP

Yana Peel was forced to step down from her post as head of London’s exclusive Serpentine art galleries after it emerged that she was an investor in the Israeli spyware firm NSO.

Peel was subjected to harsh criticism after The Guardian revealed she had shares in the private equity fund Novalpina Capital, the controlling shareholder in NSO. The Guardian said it found the paper trail in Luxembourg and the United States. Her husband Stephen Peel is the fund’s controlling shareholder.

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In November, NSO’s founders bought out shareholder Francisco Partners and brought in Novalpina as their controlling shareholder, while also increasing their own holding. These transactions valued NSO at $2 billion.

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When the deal became public in February, human rights organizations including Amnesty International sent a letter to Novalpina regarding reports that NSO worked on behalf of anti-democratic regimes. Human rights group Citizenlab sent a similar letter to Francisco in 2018.

NSO has drawn criticism for its alleged work on behalf of governments including Mexico and Saudi Arabia. The company’s software can remotely break into and control smartphones, and in several cases its product was used against human rights workers, regime opponents and journalists.

Legal cases are ongoing against NSO in several countries. One suit alleges NSO’s technology was used to target a friend of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, specifically correspondences between the two, before Khashoggi was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year.