Macron, Imran Khan Among 14 World Leaders Who Were Potential Pegasus Targets

The list of world leaders includes French President Emmanuel Macron and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

3 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>NSO Group, which owns the Pegasus products, reportedly counts 36 governments around the world as its customers.</p></div>

Telephone numbers linked to at least 14 world leaders, including French President Emmnuel Macron and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, were among the potential Pegasus spyware targets, reported The Wire on Tuesday, 20 July.

The list includes 14 world leaders, out of which at least seven are still in power.

  • Morocco’s King Mohammed VI

  • French President Emmanuel Macron

  • Iraqi President Barham Salih

  • South African President Cyril Ramaphosa

  • Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan

  • Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly

  • Moroccan Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani

  • Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri

  • Former Ugandan Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda

  • Former Algerian Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui

  • Former Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel


French President Emmanuel Macron

According to The Wire, Macron’s name appeared in the list as he embarked on a trip to Africa in 2019 with stops in Dijbouti and Ethiopia.

Citing sources, French publication Le Monde reported that one of Macron’s phone numbers, which has been regularly used since 2017 is on the leaked databased accessed by the Pegasus Project.

In a statement to Le Monde, Macron’s office stated, “If the facts are true, they are clearly very serious. All light will be shed on these media revelations.”

It added that “some French victims have already announced they would file complaints and legal investigations will, therefore, be launched”.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan

Imran Khan’s number in the leaked database was first identified by The Guardian, who reported that his number was selected as a person of interest by India in 2019.

According to The Wire, Khan is the only foreign leader who has two listed phone numbers in the leaked database and his number was added by an unidentified agency in mid-2019 in a batch of Indian telephone numbers for the period of 2017-2019.

However, the Indian government has denied conducting any surveillance on any of the numbers in the database.

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI and Prime Minister Al-Othmani

According to The Wire, the phone numbers of Morocco’s King and PM were discovered in a small subset of phone numbers, which was allegedly selected by Moroccan security forces.

The report further states security forces also tagged former chief negotiator of the US-Iran Deal Rober Malley as a person of interest in 2019.

In response to the reports by the Pegasus Project, the Moroccan government expressed “great astonishment” and stated that “Morocco is a state governed by the rule of law, which guarantees the secrecy of personal communications by the force of the Constitution.”

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa

According to a The Guardian report, President Ramaphosa's number was found in a batch of numbers listed in 2019.

However, the Rwandan government has denied all claims, reported The Wire, adding that the accusations were part of a campaign to cause tension between Rwanda and other countries and to sow disinformation about Rwanda domestically and internationally.


What NSO Group Says About the Names

The report further states that in response to a list of names submitted by the Pegasus Project, the NSO Group said that “at least three names” identified – Macron, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, and the director of the World Health Organization – “are not, and never have been, targets or selected as targets of NSO Group customers”.

According to the report, NSO Group, which owns the Pegasus products, counts 36 governments around the world as its customers. The report found traces of the spyware on 37 phones on the leaked list.

Some prominent names on the list of the 'potential targets' from India include Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Union ministers Ashwini Vaishnaw and Prahlad Singh Patel, the staffer who accused ex-CJI Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment, and Hindustan Times executive editor Shishir Gupta.

Pegasus, a product of Israeli cyberweapons company NSO Group, was earlier in the news in late 2019 when it was found that spies had used the spyware to hack into phones of roughly 1,400 users around the world, including 121 Indians.

The leaked list of names was provided to The Wire and 15 other international news organisations by France-based media non-profit, Forbidden Stories, and Amnesty International, as part of a collaborative investigation called the 'Pegasus Project'.

(With inputs from AFP.)

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