West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday said that the cyber-security company which developed Pegasus had approached the state police at least four to five years back with an offer to sell the controversial Israeli spyware for just Rs 25 crore, but she had turned down the offer when she came to know of it.
Banerjee also alleged that instead of using the spyware for the security of the country, it was used by the central government which she claimed purchased it, for “political” reasons against Judges and officials.
A political cataclysm followed allegations that the Pegasus spyware – sold only to governments – was allegedly used to target opposition leaders, journalists and others in India.
In 2019, a media consortium, including The Wire, revealed that 300 phones from India were on the list of potential targets on the leaked database of NSO, which supplies the Pegasus spyware. It is not established, however, that all the phones were hacked.
Reacting to Banerjee’s claim that the previous Chandrababu Naidu government purchased the Pegasus Spyware, Lokesh who was the then Minister for Information Technology in his father Chandrababu’s Cabinet, said “I don’t know whether she has indeed said this, and where and in which context. If she did say this, she is certainly misinformed.”
However, he said the software was offered to the state government.
“Yes, Pegasus offered to sell its spyware to the AP government as well but we rejected it,” Lokesh said.
Had the government purchased the spyware, there would be a record of it, he pointed out.
Earlier, after the Pegasus spyware case came to light, Mamata had ordered the formation of a commission of inquiry to probe allegations of phone hacking, tracking and phone recording in West Bengal, though the Supreme Court later Had rejected the proposal to form a commission. Mamata Banerjee had said that her phones were being tapped.
(With inputs from agencies)