beIN Sports aids criminal probe into Al-Khelaifi spyware case and considers legal action

By Samindra Kunti and Paul Nicholson

July 22 – Following the revelation that BeIN Sports and Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi (pictured) was among the public figures targeted by Israel’s Pegasus spyware, the Qatari broadcaster said it is co-ordinating its resources with the police investigations.

The broadcaster said that it will also consider joining any legal action resulting from the criminal investigations.

The cyber attacks happened late in 2018 during the blockade of Qatar bySaudi Arabia and its allies. The attackers reportedly used hacking spyware platform Pegasus to infiltrate Al-Khelaifi’s personal communications, as well as a landline number used by PSG’s director of communications Jean-Martial Ribes.

Pegasus, a hacking or spyware that was developed, marketed and licensed to governments around the world by the Israeli company NSO Group, can worm its way on to mobile phones and turn them into a 24-hour surveillance device. A consortium of global newspapers revealed that the spyware was also used on journalists and human rights activists.

The accusation is that Saudi Arabia commissioned the spyware to track Al-Khelaifi’s dealings at a time when beIN Sport was at the height of its intellectual copyright battle with Saudi-based pirate broadcaster beoutQ that was stealing beIN’s broadcasts and retransmitting to its subscribers in the Saudi market. The copyright theft was a key battleground in the geo-political blockade.

beIN says that the espionage wasn’t just about beoutQ but was also about player transfers at PSG.

beIN said that it is now coordinating with the Elysee Palace on their own criminal investigations and is considering whether to join the actions they bring.

A spokesperson for beIN Media Group said: “Malicious hacks and threats to our business and our people are a shocking daily reality for our Group. We have known about the cyber-attacks against beIN SPORTS and its employees by certain entities for years. During this time, beIN has joined with legal advocates and many international organisations to fight against piracy and uphold the rule of law.

“However, the sophisticated attacks against our Group’s interests and reputation have also been marked by smear campaigns, commercial sabotage, spurious law suits and cyber-attacks against our Chairman. These are just some of the daily threats against our businesses and our people. These acts are shameful and wholly illegal – it’s not political, often it’s pure commercial espionage against beIN. The relevant authorities should ensure that the complete lawlessness of these rogue actors is held to account.”

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