Anil Ambani, Ex-CBI chief on latest list of potential Pegasus targets

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New Delhi:  The phone numbers of industrialist Anil Ambani and a few other top executives from aerospace industry were found on the alleged list of potential targets of surveillance through the Israeli spyware Pegasus, news portal The Wire has reported. The numbers of Mr Ambani and one other official of Reliance Group were put on the list as the Rafale deal came under public scrutiny ahead of the 2019 national elections, The Wire reported.

At the time, the opposition Congress accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of settling for a grossly overpriced deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets to help Mr Ambani win a whopping offset deal from Rafale maker Dassault Aviation.  

The phone number for Dassault Aviation’s representative in India, Venkata Rao Posina, former Saab India head Inderjit Sial and Boeing India boss Pratyush Kumar were also on the list, The Wire reported. Venkata Rao Posina was defending the deal at the time and even getting into altercations on Twitter with critics.

“The number of Harmanjit Nagi, head of the French firm energy EDF, is also in the leaked database, a significant choice given that he was a member of Emmanuel Macron’s official delegation during the French president’s visit to India during this period,” The Wire reported.

The presence of the numbers in the alleged lists availed by Amnesty International and Paris-based news non-profit Forbidden Stories, is not conclusive about surveillance. The 17 media houses across the world investigating the issue had sent some of the handsets for forensic tests and evidence of interception by Pegasus have been found in some of them.

Reliance Group has not responded to requests or answered queries, The Wire reported.  

Earlier on Thursday, the news portal reported that former CBI chief Alok Verma, who was unceremoniously fired in 2018 after a clash with the government, was also on the leaked list. He was added just hours after the sacking.

The Pegasus scandal – dubbed “bigger than Watergate” by the opposition – broke this week. Reports said the names Congress’s Rahul Gandhi, political strategist Prashant Kishor, two Union Ministers and dozens of journalists have been found on the list of possible targets.

Earlier on Thursday, the news portal reported that former CBI chief Alok Verma, who was unceremoniously fired in 2018 after a clash with the government, was also on the leaked list. He was added just hours after the sacking.

The Pegasus scandal – dubbed “bigger than Watergate” by the opposition – broke this week. Reports said the names Congress’s Rahul Gandhi, political strategist Prashant Kishor, two Union Ministers and dozens of journalists have been found on the list of possible targets.

The developer of the Pegasus, Israeli firm NSO – which claims it supplies its software only to “vetted” governments for control of terrorism and crime – has claimed the leaked list of numbers is “not a list of targets or potential targets”.

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