Under the sharp scrutiny of investigative and regulatory agencies in Cyprus lie the shareholders of Intellexa, a notorious player in the production and distribution of surveillance software, notably the spyware Predator. The Intellexa’s operations have drawn the attention of American authorities, while, in a parallel investigation spanning the last two years, the Greek justice system has focused its scrutiny on the company’s activities.

On Monday, the Cypriot newspaper Politis revealed that Cypriot authorities are closely examining the predated alterations in executive positions within the Cypriot company Santinomo. This company maintains a 35% ownership stake in the Greek Intellexa. The alterations took place on March 7, 2024, merely two days after the United States’ announcement of sanctions against Intellexa amidst the alleged surveillance scandal labeled “Predatorgate”.

In a bold maneuver on March 5, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) shook the news cycle by targeting two individuals and five entities linked to the notorious Intellexa Consortium. Tal Dilian, Sara Aleksandra Fayssal Hamou, Intellexa S.A., Intellexa Limited, Cytrox AD, Cytrox Holdings ZRT, and Thalestris Limited found themselves under intense scrutiny, accused of direct involvement or complicity in cyber operations originating beyond US borders. These actions, according to authorities, cast a menacing shadow over national security, foreign policy, and the economic stability of the United States.

Documents from the Cyprus Companies Registrar’s archives paint a picture of intrigue and corporate chicanery. Notably:

• On August 31, 2022, the resignation of Finsol Enterprises Limited as Santinomo Limited’s secretary, along with Felix Bitzios stepping down as director, both retroactively dated to December 19, 2020, have been brought to light. Curiously, on the very same day, Andrea Nicola Costantino Hermes Gambazzi, a shadowy figure linked to Intellexa’s Israeli founder Tal Dilian, assumes the roles of director and secretary, despite facing sanctions himself from OFAC.

• Fast forward to March 7, 2024, just a heartbeat after the thunderous sanctions from the US, Gambazzi once again submits a predated resignation, echoing the same date of December 19, 2020. In a bizarre twist, Finsol Enterprises Limited is reinstated as secretary, while Felix Bitzios is reinstalled as director.

In an exclusive statement to the Greek news outlet Inside Story, Gambazzi professed complete ignorance on the unfolding case. “With regards to the transfer of shares and the documents you have provided me, I can for sure state that I have never been involved in, nor am I aware of, any transfer of Santinomo Limited shares in Intellexa SA to Thalestris Limited. I was never a shareholder and/or took any role active and/or passive in Santinomo Limited. I finally can assure you that I don’t know, and I have never met Mr Bitzios,” Gambazzi asserted.

But the plot thickens further in Santinomo’s share registry. On August 4, 2022, Finsol Enterprises Limited purportedly records a predated transfer of shares dated December 18, 2020. Allegedly, Felix Bitzios divests his entire shareholding to the Irish entity Thalestris Limited, already ensnared in the quagmire of sanctions. However, discrepancies emerge when scrutinizing the Cyprus Ultimate Beneficial Owners Registry, where on September 28, 2022 Felix Bitzios surfaces as the ultimate beneficiary, contradicting the earlier narrative of Thalestris Limited’s ownership.

Adding fuel to the fire, Thalestris Limited’s financial statements for 2020, while showcasing a dozen investments in other ventures, mysteriously omit any mention of involvement with Santinomo Limited. Meanwhile, they assert their stake in Intellexa AE to be a hefty 65%.

As the layers of this enigmatic tale peel away, one can’t help but wonder: what other secrets lie buried beneath the veneer of Intellexa’s corporate intrigue and regulatory turbulence?

The Reaction of Cypriot Authorities

The journalistic investigation raises the question of whether the aforementioned changes are forged, a question being evaluated by the Cypriot authorities with developments expected in the coming days. If indeed forged, it constitutes a criminal offense. A fine of €100,000 is imposed on anyone responsible for the predated entries, along with a two-year imprisonment sentence.

According to Politis, the Cyprus Anti-Money Laundering Authority (MOKAS) is expected to forward a complaint to the Cypriot Police, responsible for investigating criminal offenses, regarding the changes in executives and shareholders at Santinomo. Simultaneously, an investigation is underway by the Cyprus Bar Association into Finsol Enterprises Limited. Maria Hadjivasileiou, Head of the Supervision and Compliance Department of the Cyprus Bar Association, told Politis that all information is being examined.

Hadjivasileiou told Politis that every morsel of information is now under intense scrutiny. “If the findings fall under AML/CFT (anti-money laundering, countering the financing of terrorism) issues, we will proceed with the appropriate procedures of the Cyprus Bar Association. The Cyprus Bar Association, as the competent supervisory authority for money laundering matters, will conduct an investigation into the matters brought to our attention, and the results will be evaluated for the purpose of taking action in case of violation of relevant legislation. If the investigation reveals a potential breach of Lawyers’ Code of Ethics, the matter will be referred to the Disciplinary Board for its assessment, and in cases where criminal offenses may have been committed, these fall within the jurisdiction of state prosecuting authorities,” she explained.

The investigation and its results are confidential, but in the event that measures are taken, decisions will be made public.

Cyprus’s Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism Law of 2007 provides for penalties including revocation of the operating license of the supervised entity. The legislation provides for a thorough due process. Last week, on March 26, the Cyprus Bar Association issued detailed guidelines to its members on the Supervisory Control Process and the Examination Procedure for Possible Violation of the Provisions of the Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism Law of 2007.

FBI Extends Helping Hand to Cyprus

The Intellexa case unfolds at a time when the official collaboration between the US and the Republic of Cyprus has been formalized through a joint statement to combat economic crime and enforce sanctions.

The US Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), with the support of the Office of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs and the US Embassy in Nicosia, have already established direct cooperation with the competent law enforcement authorities of the Republic of Cyprus to enhance the Republic’s capabilities to detect and prosecute financial crime.

Furthermore, as part of ongoing efforts to address money laundering and the phenomenon of sanctions evasion, the US Department of Justice will, by 2024, share its expertise with the relevant Cypriot authorities to proactively identify, investigate, and prosecute cases involving financial crimes related to Cyprus, providing relevant technical expertise—a significant investment by the US in Cyprus’s capabilities.