Cyprus Police Confiscate Israeli Ex-top Intel Officer's 'Spy Van,' Probe Privacy Violations

Investigation started following Forbes report on intelligence expert Tal Dilian, who showed off the $9 million van’s surveillance capabilities

File photo: A man types into a keyboard during the Def Con hacker convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, July 29, 2017.
Steve Marcus/Reuters

Cypriot police have confiscated a van reportedly loaded with sophisticated surveillance equipment and have questioned its Israeli owner following media reports that the vehicle was being hired out to spy on people.

Police said Saturday that officers also searched the office of the Israeli’s Cyprus-registered company that’s being investigated on possible violations of privacy rights laws.

Police chief Kypros Michaelides told private radio station Astra that authorities are also questioning the Larnaca-based company’s other Cypriot shareholders and are looking into how this van and other surveillance equipment was imported into the country.

The police probe was initiated after local media highlighted an earlier Forbes report on the Israeli it identified as a former intelligence officer who showed off the $9 million van’s spying capabilities.

Forbes' August report and reports on Cypriot media identified the Israeli as intelligence expert Tal Dilian, co-founder of surveillance firm Circles Technologies. According to a 2018 Haaretz report, its system can be installed on drones and surveillance vehicles.

According to Forbes, Dilian's surveillance kit can extract any information from smartphones in its vicinity or empty them of content.

He told the paper his services are intended to track terrorists and criminals, but Dilian's Circles merged in 2014 with NSO Group, whose malware has been used to target activists and journalists, including a close friend of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.