Exclusive: Spyware firms in breach of global sanctions

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Spy equipment producers are breaking laws and circumventing international sanctions by agreeing to sell stock to countries known for human rights abuses, and to clients who do not declare the end user – meaning surveillance tools could easily fall into the hands of armed groups, corporations, governments cracking down on dissent, or opposition leaders, an exclusive investigation by Al Jazeera reveals.

During “Spy Merchants”, a four-month undercover operation, Al Jazeera secretly filmed representatives of two Italian companies and one Chinese business agreeing to sell spyware that is capable of tracking millions of people online and able to intercept phone calls and text messages without anyone finding out.

The vendors boasted of being able to side-step the law by using sister and shell companies and explained how to possibly circumvent export regulations by lying about the details of shipments and using third countries exempted from certain rules as stopping places.

Posing undercover as a middle man buying equipment for the South Sudanese and Iranian governments, our reporter James (not his real name) was able to negotiate deals to acquire surveillance tools that Iran is prohibited from buying and that would cause serious human rights concerns in South Sudan .

The two Italian companies, IPS and AREA, indicated that they were open to the possibility of violating European laws to sell equipment that would end up in the hands of Iranian and South Sudanese clients, where they could potentially be used to spy on citizens.

source: al jazeera

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