German authorities have charged former executives of the now-defunct surveillance technology company FinFisher for supplying Turkey's intelligence services with the FinSpy surveillance software that could be used to hack into phones and computers.
The prosecutors say the accused intentionally violated licensing requirements for dual-use goods by selling surveillance software to non-EU countries.
Specifically, the four suspects are charged with commercial violations of the German trade and payments act in three separate cases. According to the authorities, the Turkish opposition movement was targeted in 2017 using the FinSpy tool that was offered for download via a fake webstite.
FinSpy is a powerful spyware, which can access address books, photographs and videos on targeted smartphones, as well as listening in on telephone conversations. While the spyware is being touted as a legal law enforcement tool it has also been found in use by oppressive regimes.
The probe into FinFisher was launched in 2019 after numerous media reports and complaints filed by four non-governmental organizations — the Society for Civil Liberties, Reporters Without Borders, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and Netzpolitik.org.
In October 2020, the police raided the offices of FinFisher in Germany and abroad, including business premises of FinFisher GmbH and the private apartments of the managing directors, along with a partner company in Romania.
In March 2022, the company shut down operations and claimed insolvency, which prevented the prosecutor's office from seizing the alleged illegally obtained assets belonging to the firm because it doesn’t technically exist.