Shin Bet Chief in Greece for Snap Visit Amid Israeli-linked Spyware Scandal

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Ronen Bar, head of Shin Bet security servicesCredit: Moti Milrod

The head of the Shin Bet Ronen Bar was in Athens weeks after the Greek spy chief stepped down after a journalist, opposition lawmaker were revealed to be under surveillance. Sources stress no connection

The head of Israel’s Shin Bet held a snap visit to Greece this week. The trip lasted about a day and coincided with Interior Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev’s official visit to the country. A security source close to the matter said that Bar was on a routine working visit, similar to other visits he had held in the past year.

On Thursday, upon his return to Israel, Bar met with Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

According to sources, Ronen Bar was in Athens for a day on Wednesday for a secret visit that took place in tandem to an official visit by Interior Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev. Upon his return to Israel on Thursday, Bar had a meeting with Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

While in Athens, Bar also met with Bar-Lev while he was having dinner with his Greek counterpart and the Public Security Ministry Director-General, Tomer Lotan. During his visit, Bar-Lev also held meetings with Greek officials about cybercrime, anti-terror and joint firefighting efforts between Israel, Greece and Cyrpus.

Sources stress that Bar did not attend those meetings and that there is no connection between the head of the Shin Bet’s presence in Greece and the minister’s.

Last month, Greece’s spy chief Panagiotis Kontoleon – who heads the National Intelligence Service, or EYP – stepped down alongside a senior aide to the prime minister over the storm caused by what is termed Predator-gate.

Greece is in the midst of a massive political scandal over revelations involving the Predator spyware, which was previously found on the phone of a prominent investigative journalist and the leader of the country’s social democratic party. A few weeks ago, former lawmaker and Infrastructure and Transport Minister Christos Spirtzis – also a member of the left-wing party Syriza – was hacked in 2021 via a malicious link that also infected the phone of journalist Thanasis Koukakis.

Greece has admitted that it conducted the surveillance, emphasizing that it was done legally, but did not say if it used the Predator spyware, created by the Israeli-owned firm Intellexa and its subsidiary CYTROX. The latter is registered in North Macedonia and operates from Greece. Intellexa is owned by the former head of a secret Israeli intel unit known as Unit 81. He has operated from Cyprus and Greece. Unlike NSO, Intellexa and its activities are not overseen by Israeli authorities.

The Shin Bet said it does not comment on the travel of the head of the organization and a security source added that there is no connection between Bar’s visit and the spyware scandal. The Interior Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev’s office did not respond to comment.

haaretz.com

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