The phone numbers used by industrialist Anil Ambani and another top official of the Reliance ADA Group were added to the leaked list of potential snooping targets that was analysed by media partners of the Pegasus Project, news portal The Wire said on Thursday.
The report said the mere presence of a number on this list does not imply the smartphone connected to Ambani’s numbers was successfully snooped upon.
When contacted, an ADA spokesperson declined to comment.
The report said unless the mobile phone undergoes digital forensics, it cannot be concluded that the phone was hacked.
Israel’s NSO Group supplies the military grade spyware Pegasus to its government clients. The software was allegedly used to hack the phones of several journalists, civil activists, and even Union ministers. Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi’s phone was also in the hacked phone list.
The Wire said the NSO Group has disputed this list, saying it has no relevance to the company or its military-grade spyware product Pegasus. Forensic analysis has been conducted by Amnesty International’s Security Lab for over 60 phones on this list.
Apart from Ambani, the phone numbers of Dassault Aviation’s India representative and the India Head of French Energy Firm EDF was also in the leaked list.
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The phone numbers of ADA group’s corporate communications chief, Tony Jesudasan, as well as Jesudasan’s wife is also in the list.
Jesudasan appeared on the list in 2018. From mid-2018, there have been several tense periods for the conglomerate, including the François Hollande controversy and tense apex court hearings. The number of Jesudasan shortly stopped appearing in the records after the Supreme Court gave its verdict.
The judgment, delivered in December 2018 by a bench headed by the then Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, dismissed a batch of petitions that called for a probe into the Rafale sale of aircraft to India, The Wire reported.
The number for Dassault Aviation’s representative in India, Venkata Rao Posina, former Saab India head Inderjit Sial and Boeing India boss Pratyush Kumar all appear in the leaked database at different periods of time in 2018 and 2019.
In 2018, media reports noted that Posina developed a reputation for ferociously defending the Rafale deal, to the point of apparently getting into verbal altercations with journalists on Twitter.
The confirmed targeting with Pegasus of former Indian Express associate editor Sushant Singh – who was extensively covering the Rafale controversy – and the presence of at least two government officials who at the time of being added to the list worked in the defence space, also implies a certain focus on the defence sector and perhaps the aircraft deal, as per the Wire report.