Catalangate espionage victims sue Israeli spyware developer NSO Group

Lawsuits filed in Barcelona court investigating 2020 phone hacking revelations

CUP MP Carles Riera at a press conference, September 8, 2020 (Mariona Puig)
CUP MP Carles Riera at a press conference, September 8, 2020 (Mariona Puig) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

May 2, 2022 10:33 AM

The first Catalangate espionage lawsuits were filed in Barcelona on Monday morning: one from civil society group Òmnium and another from far-left CUP politicians and an activist, both of which are against Israeli spyware developer NSO Group and seek to demonstrate Spanish government involvement in the affair. 

The claims were filed in the same magistrate's court that is investigating the Pegasus phone hackings of former parliament speaker and current business minister Roger Torrent as well as Barcelona councilor Ernest Maragall revealed by The Guardian and El País in 2020. 

The Òmnium lawsuit, brought forth by former group vice president Marcel Mauri as well as Txell Bonet, a journalist and the partner of former organization president and jailed leader Jordi Cuixart, and Elena Jiménez, calls for a European Investigation Order to go through NSO Group's financial statements in Luxembourg, and demands that the responsibility of Spanish government agencies be determined.  

Similarly, the complaint filed by CUP politicians Carles Riera and Albert Botran alongside activist David Fernàndez says Spain's National Intelligence Agency (CNI), the Spanish police, and Civil Guard should be held accountable, as should NSO Group, which is in the midst of a legal battle with Whatsapp in the United States. 

Not long after these were lodged, the Spanish government held a last-minute press conference to announce that Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez and defense minister Margarita Robles had been targeted by the spyware in 2021. 

What is Catalangate? 

On April 18, The New Yorker and University of Toronto research group Citizen Lab revealed that the phones of at least 65 pro-independence politicians, activists, and their close associates had been hacked with Pegasus spyware.

The software, which NSO Group only sells to government agencies to "investigate terrorism and crime", can control phones remotely by activating microphones and cameras and accessing the device's memory.

According to Citizen Lab, there is "strong circumstantial evidence" to suggest the entities within the Spanish government are behind the Catalangate espionage.