InvestigationRussian multibillionaire Pavel Durov’s phone was targeted by Pegasus spyware on behalf of the United Arab Emirates when the businessman set up his business in Dubai.
“In almost six years of existence, Telegram has not experienced any major data breach or security breach of a magnitude similar to those that plague WhatsApp every six months. “ In mid-May 2019, a few days after the revelation of the existence of a security flaw in WhatsApp, used by NSO Group to install its Pegasus spyware, Pavel Durov, the Russian founder of Telegram messaging, was openly rejoicing. In a long, sometimes conspiratorial blog post, he claimed that Telegram was structurally far more protective than its main rival against spyware.
In writing this, Mr. Durov was probably unaware that his own phone had been targeted the previous year by NSO Group software on behalf of one of their customers in the United Arab Emirates. The world and the Forbidden Stories consortium could not verify whether Mr Durov’s phone was indeed infected or not – the Russian multibillionaire, who divides his time between London, Dubai and several other capitals, did not respond to the requests media from the consortium. NSO Group, which disputes some of the information revealed this week, told Forbidden Stories that Mr Durov’s phone had not been targeted or placed under surveillance, without specifying what it was based on. It is a UK number linked to Mr. Durov’s personal Telegram account which is included in the list of numbers analyzed by “Project Pegasus”.
A colorful and controversial figure, Pavel Durov has always been of interest to many intelligence services – his messaging application is used by many activists from all sides and by heads of state, including Emmanuel Macron. Co-founder, before Telegram, of Vkontakte – nicknamed the “Russian Facebook” – this high-level entrepreneur and programmer was ejected from the supervisory board of the Russian-speaking social network in 2014, in murky conditions.
Libertarian at heart, Mr. Durov has, on several occasions, publicly refused to block the accounts of opponents of Vladimir Putin, including that of Alexey Navalny, on the social networks he created, and asserts, without him it is possible to verify it, having refused any collaboration with the Russian security services.
After passing through Berlin and then Finland, Mr. Durov finally decided to set up the company that manages Telegram in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, for tax reasons – the company is not taxable in the Emirates, a very advantage. clear to Mr. Durov, himself a citizen of the Caribbean tax haven of Saint Kitts and Nevis and philosophically opposed to the principle of taxation.
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