The investigation into the German company FinFisher, which stands accused of illegally selling spyware to the Turkish intelligence to monitor Turkey’s opposition was concluded in Germany, DW Turkish reported on Tuesday.
The spyware was allegedly used to infiltrate the mobile phones of opposition members participating in Turkey’s 2017 Justice March, which was led by Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of Turkey’s Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the presidential candidate in the country’s approaching 28 May presidential run-off election.
Elmas Topçu, a reporter for DW Turkish, took to Twitter on Tuesday to announce the completion of the indictment in relation to the German company FinFisher. According to Topçu, the company had clandestinely sold spyware to Turkey, which was then used to monitor the mobile phones and computers of supporters participating in Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s Justice March.
Munich State Prosecution has indicted four former executives of the bankrupt company, accusing them of violating the Foreign Trade and Payments Act by selling spyware to non-European Union countries.
The inquiry was initiated based on complaints lodged by four civil society organisations advocating for press freedom and human rights. Computer experts confirmed that the FinSpy spyware was secretly installed on mobile phones in 2017 through a fraudulent website, with the aim of monitoring the opposition movement in Turkey.
The indictment refers to the 2017 Justice March initiated by CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. The spyware was discovered on a website seemingly supportive of the march. It is alleged that by clicking on the recommended application for download, which supposedly provided support or updates on the march, the spyware was installed on the mobile phones of thousands of individuals, CHP members included.
The FinSpy spyware facilitated the surveillance of text messages, the recording of calls, the monitoring of cameras, eavesdropping through microphones and the tracking of user location. The company developed this software for use by law enforcement agencies and intelligence services worldwide.
Since 2015, specific authorisation has been required for selling spyware outside the European Union. However, the indictment claims that the company evaded official authorisation by concealing its sales and illegally selling the software to other countries through a Bulgarian-based company. In January 2015, a contract worth over five million euros was signed with Turkey’s intelligence agency, the National Intelligence Organisation (MİT), for the aforementioned spyware, hardware, technical support and training.
Among the charges in the indictment is the accusation that the company listed a Romanian-based company as the seller and a non-existent address, the “General Directorate of Customs Control,” in Ankara as the buyer to obscure the delivery. The indictment also states that since March 2015, FinFisher has engaged in illegal activities through subsidiaries established abroad, alleging that the defendants sent three software link connections to MİT for downloading and provided training on its usage. The prosecution infers that the defendants’ motive for the crimes was to generate substantial profits.
The indictment has been drawn up and submitted to Munich District Court. If accepted, four defendants connected to the company will face trial.
The German Society for Civil Liberties, Reporters Without Borders Germany, the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights and the independent investigative journalism website netzpolitik.org brought the charges originally, claiming that the company had illegally sold the spyware to Turkey, without obtaining the proper export licence from the German government. The prosecution continued the investigation despite the company declaring bankruptcy in April 2022.