The Malta Independent 25 May 2024, Saturday
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Government starts process to deprive man of Maltese citizenship after he appears on US sanction list

Wednesday, 6 March 2024, 19:30 Last update: about 4 months ago

The Maltese government has initiated the process of the deprivation of the Maltese citizenship of a person who appeared on a US sanctions list on Tuesday.

Ex-Israeli intelligence officer and current CEO of cyber spyware firm Intellexa Tal Dilian was added to the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control Specially Designated Nationals List on Tuesday in connection with sanctions by the US Treasury on members of the Intellexa Spyware Consortium.

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Dilian is listed in the sanctions list as being an Israeli citizen but of also holding Maltese citizenship.

“In his responsibility for matters relating to Maltese citizenship, the deprivation process is being initiated by the Minister for Home Affairs, Security and Employment,” the Home Affairs Ministry said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

“This is being done in accordance with the Maltese Citizenship Act, Cap. 188 of the Laws of Malta and the respective Subsidiary Legislation, as these provide that the responsible minister may deprive persons who have been registered or naturalised with Maltese citizenship in those circumstances established by the same legal provisions,” the Ministry said.

Dilian, who is 52 years old and is listed as living in Switzerland, is likely to have acquired Maltese citizenship through the Individual Investor Programme (IIP) – better known as Malta’s golden passport scheme – although there is no way of confirming this as the government does not release a list of names of those who purchased Maltese citizenship through this means.

The US had already issued a blacklist to stop Israeli cyber offence companies from doing business in the country, and Intellexa was added to this blacklist in July 2023.

The US say that Intellexa has sold and distributed commercial spyware and surveillance tools for targeted and mass surveillance campaigns, and marketing material by the company itself showed that it could offer customers the ability to hack both Android and Apple’s iOS operating systems.

The spyware is known as ‘Predator’ and has been detected in use in a number of countries, with Amnesty International saying last October that the software had been used to even target devices connected to European Parliament President Roberta Metsola.

According to the State Department, “Dilian is the founder of the Intellexa Consortium and is the architect behind its spyware tools. The consortium is a complex international web of decentralized companies controlled either fully or partially by Dilian, including through Sara Aleksandra Fayssal Hamou.

“Hamou is a corporate off-shoring specialist who has provided managerial services to the Intellexa Consortium, including renting office space in Greece on behalf of Intellexa S.A. Hamou holds a leadership role at Intellexa S.A., Intellexa Limited, and Thalestris Limited,” said the State Department.

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