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Swiss private intelligence agency probed over UAE spy allegations

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The head of a Swiss private intelligence company is being investigated for spying on European business, political and media figures and at the behest of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), sources close to the case told AFP Monday.

Three separate probes, in France and in Switzerland, are targeting Mario Brero, head of Geneva-based ALP Services.

The company is suspected of having delivered the names of around 1,000 Europeans and 400 organisations to a Gulf client, notably because they were presumed to have links with the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, which the UAE considers an extremist organisation.

Mediapart, a French investigative media, last year published reports accusing Brero and his agency of working for Emirati intelligence services.

Rokhaya Diallo, a French writer, lodged a complaint in France about the activity in August, triggering a criminal investigation, the sources said.

Mediapart itself filed a separate legal complaint, as did a journalist working there, the media told AFP.

Mediapart president Carine Fouteau said its journalists had been reported to the UAE as being close to Muslim Brotherhood.

Mediapart had handed investigators an internal ALP Services document listing all names given to the UAE.

Swiss authorities began investigating Brero in December, another source close to the case said, following complaints from government services, academic Tariq Ramadan and Belgian Environment Minister Zakia Khattabi.

AFP was not able to obtain an immediate comment from Brero’s lawyer, or the UAE authorities.

The list of names sent to the UAE between 2017 and 2020 included French personalities Benoit Hamon, a former presidential candidate, Samia Ghali, deputy mayor of Marseille and former senator, the hard-left France Unbowed (LFI) party, and the CNRS national scientific research centre.

The names were collected in 18 European countries with many, often wrongly, designated as Muslim Brotherhood sympathisers, sources said.

“The judiciary must investigate such methods,” said Diallo’s lawyer, Vincent Brengarth.

“Not only do they imply an illegal use of personal data, they also wrongly associate Rokhaya Diallo with a group with which he has no link,” he said.

Another French investigation, in October 2023, was sparked by a legal complaint brought by Sihem Souid, a lobbyist for Qatar in France, who said she and Qatar had been targeted by a “destabilisation operation” on the basis of information given by ALP Services.

Brero has been convicted in France for illegally gathering intelligence on the husband of Anne Lauvergeon, a former boss of nuclear energy company Areva.

In the United States in January a trader, Hazim Nada, filed a lawsuit against the UAE and its ruler, accusing them of paying ALP Services to “seriously damage” his reputation and business in a smear campaign.

The alleged operation against Nada, first reported by The New Yorker last year, put the spotlight on a booming industry of what security analysts call “disinformation-for-hire” enterprises that seed false narratives and peddle influence operations on behalf of governments and other paying clients.

Media reported in January that the UAE had ordered 84 people to stand trial for alleged links to the Mulim Brotherhood.


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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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