Two Union ministers, Rahul Gandhi, Prashant Kishor on Pegasus list: Report

Congress member Rahul Gandhi, former election commissioner Ashok Lavasa, recently-appointed railways, communications and IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and junior Jal Shakti minister Prahlad Patel, along with poll strategist Prashant Kishor and Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee were allegedly targeted for surveillance by Pegasus spyware, web portal The Wire reported on Monday.

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The names are part of a cache of around 1,000 numbers from India of which around 300 have been verified, according to the report. The Wire, which is part of the ‘Pegasus Project’, involving media outfits across several countries, reported that at least two phone accounts used by Gandhi as well as numbers used by his aides and friends were on the leaked database.

With Gandhi changing his phone, it could not be conclusively established if Pegasus was deployed, though attempts were allegedly made between mid-2018 and mid-2019, the report said. He doesn’t use the two numbers any longer.

The report also said the phone number of Lavasa was on the list of suspected targets. Vaishnaw is suspected to have been identified as a surveillance target in 2017, with another number suspected to be listed in his wife’s name.

The media portal reported that there were at least 15 phones linked to Prahlad Patel, including his wife’s, that may have been targeted.

While VHP functionary Pravin Togadia was likely targeted in 2018, some of the aides of BJP functionaries may also have faced attempts to break into their phones.

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Kishor’s phone was allegedly “broken into” during the Bengal elections earlier this year, when he was Mamata Banerjee’s key strategist. Her nephew and TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee is also a likely target, though his phone was not forensically examined to conclusively establish a breach.

But an examination of Kishor’s phone has allegedly revealed traces of unsuccessful attempts in 2018, months before the last Lok Sabha polls. “Amnesty’s forensic analysis found traces of infection on Kishor’s phone on April 28, just a day before the last phase of polling in the eight-phase assembly election in West Bengal,” The Wire reported.

The report also said that a Supreme Court staffer, who had accused former Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment, was a person of interest with her number along with those belonging to her husband and his brothers also on the list.

Source : Times of India

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