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Qatargate, Pegasus (Nso) and Morocco. What are the plots?

Qatargate, Pegasus (Nso) and Morocco. What are the plots?

Morocco used Pegasus software as an "armed wing" to conduct an espionage and influence operation in Europe that resulted in Qatargate

At the end of November the silent scene of Esperanza Casteleiro, director of the Spanish National Intelligence Center, during the hearing in the European Parliament on the Pegasus scandal, the espionage software developed by the Israeli company NSO Group, made headlines.

Of the twenty-eight questions that MEPs had asked her about the legal framework in which the Spanish secret services operate, writes Euronews , Casteleiro did not answer any of them for reasons of secrecy.


Spain has two separate cases pending into Pegasus, spyware that NSO Group claims it sells to governments to help them fight terrorism and crime, but which has been used extensively to monitor journalists, politicians and activists.

The first case concerns the espionage of the head of government Pedro Sánchez and two ministers by a third country (the suspects focus on Morocco). The second case instead has to do with the hacking via Pegasus of the electronic devices of about sixty pro-independence Catalan politicians.


Not only Spain, but also other EU member states – such as Hungary, Poland andGreece – have purchased technologies from NSO Group and have been questioned for their use of Pegasus.

The software would also be used to spy on the European Commission , according to a letter signed last July by Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders.

In the document, addressed to MEP Sophie in 't Veld, Reynders wrote that in 2021 he had received a notification from Apple regarding the possible violation of his iPhone via Pegasus; the warning led to an investigation into electronic devices – both personal and work-related – by Commission officials.


In July 2021, however, the newspaper Le Monde wrote that French President Emmanuel Macron was one of the targets of a cyberespionage operation via Pegasus conducted by Morocco's secret services. The French presidency confirmed the journalistic investigation; the Moroccan authorities, however, denied any involvement.


On Sunday Il Messaggero published an interview with Mohamed Dihani, a human rights activist of the Sahrawi ethnic group, a people who live in the territory of Western Sahara, disputed between the Polisario Front (a political group representing the Sahrawis) and Morocco.

Dihani explains that “Pegasus spyware has been used as an armed wing of Moroccan 007 to blackmail Europe and the rest of the world. They spied on Algerian and French journalists and politicians for three years: one of President Emmanuel Macron's cell phones appears in the list of 50,000 telephone numbers that have been targeted by this spy software. In 2019, a first document was published by the European Commission, and this year a second one, which invites all politicians to pay attention, denouncing the fact that there are more than 500 Moroccan secret agents infiltrated into EU institutions".


Last year, Belgian intelligence began investigating several Moroccan-linked spies, whose goal was to build a network of influence in Europe. The case – as Cecilia Sala recounts – spreads, and appears as "an attempt by Moroccan intelligence and some Qataris […] to infiltrate the institutions of the Union".

Two of the goals of this spying and influence campaign by Morocco are to change Brussels' position on the Western Sahara crisis, so as to reduce European support for the Sahrawi cause, and to obtain more favorable fishing rights in the Mediterranean Sea.

The investigation into Moroccan espionage is therefore closely connected to the so-called " Qatargate ", the alleged maxi-scandal of corruption by Qatar in the European Parliament. One of the main figures in the investigation into Qatar is Pier Antonio Panzeri, a former MEP at the head of the delegation for the Maghreb who was arrested about ten days ago on corruption charges.

Already in 2011, in an internal document of the Moroccan government seen by POLITICO , there was talk of Panzeri as a potential "important ally".

This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Start Magazine at the URL on Mon, 19 Dec 2022 09:04:07 +0000.