Bengaluru police, under the cover of an investigation into smuggling of red sanders and other cases, illegally tapped the telephones of a number of public figures in the state, the Indian Express reported. This revelation about using legitimate police inquiries as a cover to illegally surveil public figures comes in the wake of a lawsuit by WhatsApp against Israeli spyware company NSO Group in which about 24 Indian human rights activists, journalists and lawyers were targeted with a malicious, surveillance software Pegasus. Who was affected? As many as 30 phone numbers were targeted. It is unclear if this means that 30 individuals were targeted, or 30 phones that could belong to fewer individuals. Targets included Nirmalananda Swami, a seer of the dominant Vokkaliga community, and at least one candidate in the Lok Sabha polls. It is unclear to which party this candidate belongs. When were they tapped? Between August 2018 and August 2019, it is believed. The conclusion to the red sanders investigation was announced around the time of Lok Sabha elections in May 2019. The Bengaluru police had announced that it had arrested 13 people and seized 4,000 kg of sandalwood worth ₹4 crore. Illegal phone-tapping continued thereafter using other cases as a cover until the JD(S)-Congress state government, headed by J.D. Kumaraswamy, was usurped by a group of rebelling MPs in July 2019. How did the police do that? Under the cover of investigation into smuggling of red sanders which lasted several months. While calls of suspects in…
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