Israeli spies 'impersonated Fox News, Italian journalists' to target UAE litigants

Israeli spies 'impersonated Fox News, Italian journalists' to target UAE litigants
Two men engaged in lawsuits against Emirati authorities were reportedly targeted by Israeli spies eager to learn more.
3 min read
07 April, 2021
Israeli spy companies have a history in the UAE [AFP/Getty]

Israeli private eyes claimed to be journalists for Fox News and the Italian paper La Stampa to extract details from litigants in the UAE, according to an investigation by The Daily Beast.

The two men targeted, neither of whom still lives in the UAE, were fighting the emirate of Ras al-Khaimah in court after having been convicted in absentia on embezzlement charges.

In another striking similarity, they were both also approached by fake journalists who turned out to be spies.

After The Daily Beast contacted Facebook with pertinent information, it said the social media giant identified Israeli private intelligence company Bluehawk CI as responsible for the subterfuge.

Bluehawk CI did not reply to The Daily Beast when asked to comment.

Read more: Pegasus: The Israeli spyware that helped Saudi Arabia spy on Khashoggi

One of the men, Khater Massad, who maintains his innocence, ignored a Facebook request from the La Stampa impersonator.

The spy had enquired about his ties to the Ras al-Khaimah government.

The second, however, was not so lucky.

Oussama El Omari, an American, similarly says his 2015 conviction was a baseless attack against him.

He suggests this was punishment for taking legal action after he and other senior figures in the Ras al-Khaimah Free Trade Zone Authority were fired in 2012 and 2013.

El Omari believes this was part of “a scorched-earth succession battle” after the death of Ras al-Khaimah’s former leader, Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed al-Qasimi.

Last year, he was approached by a woman calling herself “Samantha.” 

Using what had appeared to be a genuine Fox News email address, she explained she was a journalist looking into cases of immigration-related detention in the UAE.

The email trick was enough to convince El Omari, despite the spy’s poor command of the English language. 

She then requested “knowledge” of accusations in three cases filed against Ras al-Khaimah’s government, an El Omari suit brought last March alleges. Hoping the media attention would help his case, he agreed to speak with her on Skype, where she expressed her solidarity, stating her desire to reveal abuses.

After their call, Samantha seemingly disappeared.

While in US federal court, El Omari has raised several possibilities as to who enlisted Bluehawk CI’s services, all those accused reject his claims.

This is not the first time Israeli spies have made headlines for their actions in the UAE.

In August 2020, the Israeli government was reportedly implicated in sales of the infamous Pegasus spyware, produced by NSO, to the UAE and other Gulf governments.

Authorities often use the software against their critics.

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Israel 'encouraged' sale of Pegasus spyware to UAE and other Gulf regimes, report finds