He Pegasus case At least one of its branches finally comes to trial in Mexico, which points to the alleged espionage suffered by journalist Carmen Aristegui, during the Government of Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018), of the PRI. This Monday, the journalist came to testify, one of the first witnesses that the Prosecutor’s Office has presented before the judge, in a parade that could last months. He Pegasus case It is one of the great scandals of recent times in Mexico, with thousands of potential victims in various governments.
In the hearing room, located in the capital’s South Prison, Aristegui has demanded responsibilities. “I hope that the Attorney General’s Office (FGR) can have sufficient elements to clarify the case,” he said, according to statements collected by the newspaper. Reform. The Prosecutor’s Office’s star witness, code name Zeus, the deep throat of the case, has also appeared before the judge, who has accused Peña Nieto himself and his direct subordinates of ordering espionage against Aristegui and other personalities, the case of the businessmen Carlos Slim or Germán Larrea.
The case of espionage against the journalists is not the only one. The Prosecutor’s Office is also investigating the alleged fraudulent purchase of malware during the last administration, investigations that have not yet reached the court. The slowness of this second case has provoked the ire of the FGR these months. In May, the agency reported that it had requested the start of the process up to three times, without result.
The scandal also transcends the Peña years. During the current administration, headed by Andrés Manuel López Obrador, from Morena, government agencies also acquired spyware. According to an investigation by the Network in Defense of Digital Rights released at the end of last year, the Armed Forces had acquired the malware in 2019, and they had spied on at least three people, including journalist Ricardo Raphael and human rights defender Raymundo Ramos.
But the scandal broke out with Peña in the Government. Uncovered by the press, the purchase of malware During his government he astonished the country and raised questions and concerns alike. How did state security agencies use their capabilities? In spying on journalists and activists? In addition to the Aristegui case, the media and civil society organizations uncovered the espionage suffered by many other journalists, human rights defenders, and activists… Decades after the Dirty War, Mexico discovered that the State supposedly sponsored more consistent behaviors with the old times.
Aristegui was one of the few to report. During Peña Nieto’s early years, the reporter and her investigative team had tracked corruption among the president and his immediate entourage. At the end of 2014, the team, which then worked for the MVS radio network, published a report on the relationship between the president and one of the Government’s favorite business conglomerates, Grupo Higa. Peña and his family owned a house in a luxurious neighborhood of the capital, which was actually registered in Higa’s name, and which enjoyed the protection of the Army.
The scandal was huge, as it revealed a case of alleged influence peddling between high officials and businessmen. Peña’s brilliant image abroad began to crack, also hit by the executions of civilians at the hands of the military in Tlatlaya, months before, in the State of Mexico, and the attack and disappearance of dozens of students from the normal school from Ayotzinapa, in Guerrero. In this context, Aristegui’s phone was tapped. The idea, of course, is that the espionage had been carried out by the State. NSO Group, the Israeli company that markets Pegasus, has always assured that they only sell the malware to Governments.
The question is how it was, how the infection of the reporter’s cell phone was orchestrated. In these years, Aristegui, who was fired from MVS as a result of the Higa and Peña Nieto group scandal, created her own information space and received information about the case. A source approached the reporter and provided thousands of documents with information about the espionage carried out during the Peña Nieto years. That source was Zeus, who testified before the judge this Monday. Thus, the reporter and her team discovered that the spying on her phone had been carried out through a company, a subsidiary of one of the providers of Pegasus in Mexico, KBH business group.
Aristegui provided the information provided by Zeus to the FGR, which in 2021 arrested the alleged operator of the malware, Juan Carlos García Rivera, worker at the KBH subsidiary, Productos y Diseños VME. His arrest raised a number of questions. If NSO Group only sold to governments, how was it possible that the espionage on Aristegui had been carried out by a private firm? Is what NSO says a lie? Or was the Government outsourcing the embarrassing part of its operations? According to Zeus, this last possibility is the closest to reality.
The FGR asks for García Rivera 16 years in prison, for a crime of illegal communications intervention. The agency offered the accused a reduced sentence in exchange for pleading guilty and saving the state coffers from the trial. But the accused has refused. In statements to the newspaper Reform, His lawyer declared this Monday that “there were no conditions” for García Rivera to accept the deal. The Prosecutor’s Office’s main asset in the case is precisely the witness who provided information to Aristegui, whom the agency has called by the code name Zeus.
It is not known how long the trial will last, but the amount of witnesses and evidence that must be presented before the judge, in addition to the imminence of the holiday season, can delay the process for months, before the moment of sentencing. This Monday, Aristegui herself went to court to testify, just like Zeus. About Zeus, today Reform It also reported on a case of counterespionage during the Peña years, supposedly revealed by the witness, which led to the opening of a new investigation. Alerted to the possible infiltration of crime, the Peña Government launched an operation to discover officials colluding with crime. This operation was in charge of Zeus, a relative of Peña’s private secretary, Erwin Lino. Then Zeus would resign and become Aristegui’s source.
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