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Irish firms sanctioned by US treasury over commercial spyware

Penalties imposed by US department of the treasury against Intellexa Ltd and its immediate parent Thalestris Ltd

The United States has imposed sanctions on two Irish-registered “spyware” companies that funnel scores of millions of euro in Middle East sales through their main business in Dublin.

The penalties were imposed by the US department of the treasury against Intellexa Ltd and its immediate parent Thalestris Ltd.

These Irish companies and their sole director were among five companies and two individuals sanctioned for commercial surveillance targeting American government officials, journalists and policy experts.

Imposing the penalties, Washington accused them of involvement in “cyber-enabled activities” linked to “a significant threat to the national security, foreign policy, or economic health or financial stability of the US”.


Ireland’s response remains unclear. Responding to questions, the Department of Justice said: “Investigations in this jurisdiction are a matter for the relevant competent authorities. The department has no role in this regard.”

The penalties prohibit Americans from dealing with sanctioned companies and people. In addition, financial institutions can themselves face sanctions or enforcement actions for any such transactions.

The US treasury department said the Irish companies were among key enablers of a group called the Intellexa Consortium, which sells “Predator” spyware to global customers.

The group came to prominence two years ago when Greek government officials were accused of spying on political opponents and journalists.

The US said the Irish-registered Intellexa “acts as a technology reseller and holds assets on behalf of the consortium”. Thalestris was a “financial holding company” that holds distribution rights to “Predator” spyware, it said.

Official Thalestris filings show its main activity is “to provide intelligence products for law-enforcement agencies”.

Thalestris had €34.4 million in sales in 2021, €29.5 million of which were to Middle East clients. Its 2020 sales were €20.8 million, €11.3 million of which were in the Middle East.

That far outpaced Thalestris business elsewhere. Sales in Europe, the second-biggest market, were €2.3 million in 2021 and €4.3 million in 2020.

Although the 2021 accounts are the latest publicly filed for Thalestris and Intellexa, the sanctions suggest the US believes the Irish entities remain active.

Brian Nelson, US treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said sanctions against companies in Ireland, Greece, North Macedonia and Hungary were a “tangible step forward in discouraging the misuse of commercial surveillance tools”.

One of two people sanctioned by the US is the sole director of the Intellexa and Thalestris companies in Dublin: Sara Hamou is a corporate offshoring specialist with an address in Limassol, Cyprus.

The other person sanctioned is Tal Dilian, reputedly a former Israeli intelligence general, who the US described as the Intellexa group founder.

“The consortium is a complex international web of decentralised companies controlled either fully or partially by Dilian, including through Sara Aleksandra Fayssal Hamou,” the US said.

Intellexa and Thalestris have their registered address at Ulysses House in Foley Street, Dublin. Accountants Moore, who resigned as auditor to Intellexa and Thalestris last summer, have the same address.

In Companies Office filings, Moore said there were “no circumstances” connection with its resignation that should be brought to the notice of shareholders or creditors.

The day before Moore’s July 19th resignation, the US department of commerce put Intellexa of Dublin on a blacklist “for trafficking in cyber exploits used to gain access to information systems, threatening the privacy and security of individuals and organisations worldwide”.

Asked whether the auditor’s resignation was linked to US investigations, Moore’s managing partner Diarmuid O’Connell said: “As you have noted, we have resigned and no longer act for these companies and have no further comment to make.”

No contact information for the sanctioned companies was available to The Irish Times.

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times