Mexico is investigating an alleged corruption scheme in the purchase, for $ 32 million, of Pegasus software, which is suspected of being used by authorities to spy on opponents and journalists, an official body reported Wednesday.
The investigations are focused on the companies Balam Seguridad Privada and Grupo Tech Bull, based in Mexico, Santiago Nieto, director of the government's Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF), told reporters.
Tech Bull, constituted by Balam, obtained the contract with the defunct Attorney General's Office (now Prosecutor's Office) for the purchase of Pegasus for 32 million dollars in 2014, during the term of President Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018), explained the head of the FIU.
KBH, another firm linked to Tech Bull, was in charge of transferring the resources to the Israeli company NSO, developer of Pegasus, on whose platform its clients from various countries registered some 50.000 telephone numbers for possible espionage purposes, of which 15.000 correspond to Mexico.
Among the objectives are the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, and the environment of the Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, in power since December 1, 2018, as well as some 25 journalists based in Mexico, according to an investigation by a consortium media that got the list.
Nieto indicated that the funds ended up "in Italy, the United States and Israel" and that Tech Bull is a "company with facade characteristics" and with "a short time of incorporation."
Mexican authorities are investigating possible money laundering and tax evasion, he added during López Obrador's morning conference, and announced that the FIU will block the accounts of 24 people linked to the case on Wednesday.
According to the official, the FIU has been investigating alleged financial irregularities of the two companies since 2016, derived from the sale of intelligence equipment to the government with a surcharge. Those devices, in turn, were purchased from firms based in Israel and Italy.
"Acts of corruption are presumed between 2012 and 2018," said the director of the UIF, detailing that the operations covered the governments of Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) and Peña Nieto.
He added that during the Calderón administration malicious software was also acquired, the hiring of which was carried out by the Secretary of Security, Genaro García Luna, imprisoned in the United States for alleged links with drug trafficking.
The contracts with Balam and Tech Bull concluded on December 31, 2018 and during the López Obrador government their services were not required again, Nieto said.