The Spanish government has said the mobile phones of Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, and Defence Minister, Margarita Robles, were both infected last year with the Pegasus spyware that its manufacturers claim is available only to state agencies, the media reported.
In a hastily convened press conference on Monday morning, Felix Bolanos, the minister for the presidency, said Sanchez’s phone was targeted in May and June 2021, while Robles’ was targeted in June 2021. Data was extracted from both phones, The Guardian reported.
Bolanos said the “illicit” and “external” targeting would be investigated by Spain’s highest criminal court, the Audiencia Nacional, adding the targeting must have come from abroad as any such monitoring in Spain would have had required judicial authorisation, The Guardian reported.
“These facts have been confirmed and are irrefutable,” said Bolanos. “I don’t think now is the time to engage in supposition or conjecture about what the motivation may have been.”
The phones of other members of the government are being examined to determine whether they may also have been targeted.
The allegations come as the Spanish government faces questions over how Pegasus — which is sold by the Israeli company NSO Group — allegedly came to be used to monitor dozens of members of the Catalan independence movement, including the president of the north-eastern Spanish region, Pere Aragones, and three of his predecessors.
The Catalan regional government has pointed the finger at Spain’s National Intelligence Centre (CNI), which insists its operations are overseen by the supreme court and that it acts “in full accordance with the legal system, and with absolute respect for the applicable laws”.