Who are Intellexa, the Irish spyware company placed on a US ‘blacklist’?

Intellexa group produces asoftware called Predator that can secretly take over the microphone and camera on a targeted mobile phone

An Irish company part of a wider group selling controversial spyware technology which was recently placed on a “blacklist” by US authorities, has had a presence in the Republic since at least late 2019.

The Intellexa group produces a software product called Predator that can secretly take over the microphone and camera on a targeted mobile phone and turn it into a spying device.

Intellexa Ltd, a company incorporated in Ireland three and a half years ago, was this week labelled by the US state department as engaging in activities “contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States”.

It was placed on a blacklist prohibiting US businesses from dealing with the company in certain trade activities, on the basis it was “trafficking in cyber exploits”, which threatened “the privacy and security of individuals and organisations worldwide”.

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Intellexa Ltd’s current address is listed as an office building down a laneway in Dublin’s north inner city, which also houses a company offering Bible study courses and several other businesses.

Previously it listed its address as an office in a business park on the outskirts of Balbriggan, north Co Dublin.

When it was first incorporated in Ireland, the activities of Intellexa Ltd were listed as being a “reseller of technologies” in a January 2020 company document.

Subsequent company accounts stated Intellexa Ltd’s business is to “provide intelligence products for law enforcement agencies”.

A separate holding company for the group, Thalestris Ltd, was set up in Ireland in November 2019.

Financial accounts for the Intellexa group, filed with the Companies Registration Office, show it is made up of a dozen entities registered across Greece, Switzerland, Cyprus, and the British Virgin Islands, as well as Ireland.

Tal Dilian, an entrepreneur and former Israeli intelligence officer, founded the Intellexa spyware group. Initially running operations from Cyprus in 2019, he later opened branches in Greece and elsewhere after running into trouble with the Cypriot authorities.

Earlier this year the group’s offices in Athens were targeted by Greek authorities, amid greater scrutiny over the use of the controversial technology.

Sara Hamou, a Polish national with an address in Cyprus, who Israeli media previously reported is married to Mr Dilian, is listed as the director of the Irish companies.

The holding company’s main shareholder has an address in Ajman, a city in the United Arab Emirates.

Its Irish financial accounts from 2021 show the bulk of the group’s money was made from sales in the Middle East, which accounted for €29.5 million of its €34.3 million in sales that year.

The accounts outline it reported sales in Europe of €2.2 million, which was a drop on €4.2 million in sales in 2020.

The accounts show the group had 26 employees in 2021, up from just six staff the year before.

A third Irish company in the group, Elpidina Ltd, was set up at the start of 2021 but financial accounts filed last year show at that point it had yet to begin trading.

Intellexa’s Irish businesses did not respond to a request for comment sent to a company providing corporate secretarial services to the Irish entities.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times