The Tribune de Genève newspaper has opened this Thursday with an accusation against the Spanish government over the Catalangate mass espionage scandal. The daily states that the use of the Pegasus spyware against many dozens of people has also invaded the privacy of Swiss citizens. The headline of Olivier Bot's article goes straight to the point - "Hello Geneva, I'm listening to you!" - and it details how "Catalan pro-independence exiles were spied on through their smartphones in Geneva", but adds that "Swiss people were probably also heard".
"Swiss politicians or businesspeople could have been spied on"
And it details those who were the known primary targets of the hacking. "Three Catalans, two pro-independence activists in exile in Geneva and a computer scientist specializing in blockchain in Zug, were the victims of espionage on their smartphones by a client of the Israeli company NSO, a leader in the cyberespionage market." Thus, it points to, on the one hand, Marta Rovira and Anna Gabriel and a Catalan IT expert working in Zug, who experienced at least 26 attempts to hack his mobile phone, including some in communications that alleged to be of Swiss origin.
At the Geneva daily, they ask whether there might be many more. "These three cases are problematic, especially because many other Swiss citizens who came in contact with them (lawyers, politicians or businesspeople) could also have been heard and spied on," journalist Caroline Zumbach wrote for the Swiss newspaper.
"Espionage in Swiss territory is illegal"
And she calls the case a "scandal" that has "rebounded on the shores of Lake Geneva." And not only due to the espionage against the Swiss citizens but also for the two Catalan residents. "This potentially illegal espionage in Swiss territory could be the subject of legal proceedings," they warned. In parallel, Jean-Marc Carncé, Marta Rovira's lawyer, warns of international consequences: "We are studying with my client the possibility of filing a criminal complaint with the Confederation Prosecutor's Office against an unknown person for, in particular, violation of national sovereignty". In fact, the senders of infected messages purported to be the NGO Swisspeace and the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP).
"Justice must move urgently on this"
The Swiss media notes the uneasiness that all this has caused and demands explanations from the Spanish executive. "In a city like Geneva, which proposes to develop common international rules of digital governance, this espionage against Swiss citizens must not go unpunished. Justice must move urgently on this case." The actions of the Swiss Public Prosecutor's Office (MPC) will now have to be watched on the matter, since, if the surveillance took place without having received permission, an ex-officio investigation will have to be opened.
Thus, a new international front has opened up which the Pedro Sánchez government will have to face - in parallel with that of the British Parliament where espionage against Clara Ponsatí's lawyer, Aamer Anwar, has also been put on the table, although in this case, prime minister Boris Johnson has not yet ruled. But the affair may easily spread to other countries where Catalan independence activists were living at the time of the espionage - or where they may have been travelling for any reason: Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and France would surely be there.