February 3, 2023

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Credit Suisse pushed for spyware sales at NSO despite US blacklisting

2 min read

Credit Suisse pushed for NSO Group to keep selling its Pegasus spyware to new customers, just weeks after the US blacklisted the Israeli cyberweapon manufacturer saying authoritarian regimes had used its hacking tool to silence dissent.

The request was made in a December letter by lawyers representing the Swiss bank and some of its fellow NSO creditors including the hedge fund Senator, as well as the US investment bank Jefferies in its capacity as the overseer of a loan to NSO.

It came after revelations about how Pegasus had been used to hack the phones of journalists, activists and even the estranged wife of Dubai’s billionaire ruler, had plunged NSO into financial turmoil.

The push sheds new light on the approach taken by some of the major banks and Wall Street firms that have financed a weapons manufacturer with a history of reported links to human rights violations. The US blacklisted NSO in November over the abuse of the powerful Pegasus cyberweapon by its clients.

At the time of the request by Credit Suisse and fellow creditors, NSO had gone months without signing a new client, and had borrowed $10mn to meet its October payroll.

“The lenders understand and support the need for caution given the global attention and heightened scrutiny focused on the company,” they said in a December 10 2021 letter to Berkeley Research Group, a consultancy that had been appointed to manage a buyout fund owning 70 per cent of NSO.

But the creditors added they were “troubled” by a claim from NSO that BRG was preventing it “from pursuing and obtaining new customers”.

This “has deepened the company’s current liquidity crisis”, they added, and NSO “must be able to conduct its normal operations, with proper oversight, during this critical period”.

The letter, part of a court case in Israel — and seen by the FT — does not name the creditors but two people with knowledge of the matter said Credit Suisse and Senator were in the lender group on whose…

2022-06-07 16:00:17

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