In an exclusive report by journalist Jamil Chade for UOL it has been revealed that disgraced anti-corruption operation Lava Jato had negotiated with Israeli Cyber weaponry firm NSO for its Pegasus spyware, which is capable of monitoring the private communications and content of almost any smartphone, including remote access of its cameras and microphone in real time.
In recent weeks Pegasus has been revealed to have world leaders and governments among its targets, and various states have bought the software to spy on journalists and political opponents.
In a petition filed at the Supreme Court, the defence team of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva revealed how Lava Jato prosecutors in Curitiba sought to create a system of clandestine cyber espionage. The plan was discovered in chat messages between Operation Lava Jato members.
According to the Supreme Court petition Operation Lava Jato had contact with providers of “several cyber espionage weapons, including the aforementioned Pegasus”. The document is signed by Lula’s lawyers Valeska Teixeira Martins and Cristiano Martins.
Lula’s lawyers have for several years complained of having their private and personal communications spied upon by Operation Lava Jato task force during the process which jailed their client, excluding him from the 2018 election and enabling Jair Bolsonaro’s victory. Earlier, Lava Jato and Judge Sergio Moro had illegally intercepted telephone conversations between Lula and then president Dilma Rousseff, which were edited and released to the media, strengthening the campaign to remove her from office.
One of the chats from January 31, 2018 quotes a meeting between members of Lava Jato in Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba and representatives of an Israeli company that sells a “technological solution” that “invades” mobile phones in real time (allows you to see location etc)”. This technology, according to the lawyers, would later be identified as Pegasus:
“Guys, the FT-RJ (Task Force of Rio de Janeiro) met today with another company from Israel, with a super advanced technological solution for investigations. The solution ‘invades’ cell phones in real time (allows you to see the location, etc.). They said they were impressed with the solution, which was out of this world. There are problems, such as cost, and legal hurdles to all features (eg opening the microphone to listen in real time). Anyway, the company’s representative will be here at the CWB, and we’ve made an appointment for 5pm to come here. Anyone who can participate in the meeting will be great! (It even serves to see what they can/should be doing with our cell phones).”
Lula’s defence lawyers also point out how in 2017, with the lawfare campaign against their client ongoing, Lava Jato task force members spoke of creating a special “bunker” in the office of its prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol, for the operation of cyber espionage software such as NSO’s Pegasus, and products from Verint/Cognyte.
Secret Military Meeting
In June 2019, Military top brass gathered in secrecy to address the then-suspected hacking of Lava Jato judge Sergio Moro’s smartphone. According to a source who was at the meeting, among those who participated in the meeting was then government secretary, General Santos Cruz. Two tools were presented at the meeting, one of them the Pegasus system. When looking at the software however, Santos Cruz was allegedly critical, and warned President Bolsonaro about the danger of bringing the NSO tool to Brazil.
After learning of the secret meeting, the president’s son Carlos Bolsonaro, who was directly involved in the negotiations for Pegasus, pushed for General Santos Cruz’s dismissal. Seven days later he resigned, creating a crisis in the Military.
Strikingly, Brazil’s intelligence agency ABIN and Institutional Security Office GSI were, unlike Carlos Bolsonaro, not involved in the negotiations with the Israeli company, and the president’s son was accused of trying to create a “parallel ABIN” – a spy agency that he and his family could effectively control.