LARNACA: Cypriot police said Saturday they had seized an alleged “spy van” equipped with sophisticated surveillance equipment capable of hacking communications and questioned its Israeli owner.
Police began investigating after the opposition communist party AKEL asked what the government was doing about activities undertaken in the van, which was showcased in a Forbes video story broadcast several months ago that only recently went viral in Cyprus.
Cyprus police chief Kypros Michaelides told private radio station Astra that the Israeli owner had given “some explanations”, but he would be questioned further, along with Cypriot nationals.
Forbes had named the owner of the van as ex-Israeli intelligence officer Tal Dilian, who allegedly heads a Cyprus-registered company that owns the vehicle.
It said the US$9 million state-of-the-art equipment in the van can monitor electronic devices within a 500-metre radius, hack any phone and listen in to conversations regardless of the level of encryption.
Investigators searched a company premises where the van was located in the southern coastal resort of Larnaca after securing warrants, Cypriot police said.
“On preliminary examination, the vehicle was found to have electronic equipment and was confiscated, along with other evidence,” a police statement said Saturday.
“In a subsequent investigation at the company’s offices, further evidence was found, which will be subject to scientific examination,” it added.
Police said they were investigating possible violations of the protection of privacy law.
Once the video of the van gathered online momentum on the island, the government was urged to act to see if anything illegal had transpired.
A spokesman for Israel’s police said it had not been notified by Cypriot counterparts of the case.
There was no immediate comment from Israel’s foreign ministry.