The Saudi Government tried to Buy The Hacking Team, an Italian Surveillance & Software firm (Hacking) .
UK-based Syrian-born businessman Wafic Saïd, friends with the Saudi royal family – and Ronald Spogli, a former US ambassador to Italy, who indirectly owned a stake in Hacking Team, tried to broker a deal which ultimately fell through in April 2014.
Prince Bandar bin Sultan, head of the Saudi intelligence service and former Saudi ambassador to Washington, strongly backed the proposed deal. Later he was removed from the office. Successor Youssef al-Idrissi was not as much interested and hence deal collapsed .
Deal was revealed by leaked emails (available via WikiLeaks) resulting from a wide-ranging breach against Hacking Team back in July.
Negotiations to sell Hacking Team to Said’s investment company Safinvest began in late 2013. By February 2014, a price of €37m ($42m) had been agreed and plans to rebrand the acquired firm as “Halo” had been drawn up.
In other emails, Hacking Team chief exec David Vincenzetti expressed the idea of setting up new company outside of Europe
“The newco should be away from countries adhering to the new, forthcoming export regulations on ‘offensive technologies’ which will [be] dictated by the recent Wassenaar Arrangement,” Vincenzettisaid in an email to business advisors in January 2014. “We would like the newco to be in a country which will not impair the export of our technology.”
A firm owned by the regional government of Lombardy had a 26 per cent stake in Hacking Team, whose clients included Italy’s foreign intelligence service AISE. These links apparently didn’t act as any kind of impediment to the proposed deal.
In the IT World piece, he defended the sale of its spyware-for-cops technology to authoritarian governments, such as the government of Saudi Arabia, who are also allies to the West.