Israel’s Cognyte Software Ltd has been accused of selling intercept spyware to a Myanmar state-backed telecommunications firm a month before the Asian nation’s February 2021 military coup. According to documents reviewed by Reuters, this deal was made despite Israel claiming to have stopped defence technology transfers to Myanmar following a 2017 ruling by Israel’s Supreme Court. A legal complaint has been filed with Israel’s attorney general and calls for a criminal investigation into the deal. The complaint was filed by high-profile Israeli human rights lawyer Eitay Mack and accuses Cognyte and unnamed defence and foreign ministry officials who supervise such deals of “aiding and abetting crimes against humanity in Myanmar.”
This legal complaint has been filed on behalf of more than 60 Israelis, including a former speaker of the house as well as prominent activists, academics and writers. The documents about the deal were provided to Reuters and Mack by the activist group Justice for Myanmar. They include a January 2021 letter with attachments from Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) that list Cognyte as the winning vendor for intercept technology and note the purchase order was issued “by 30th Dec 2020”.
This legal complaint comes after Israel’s government has publicly stated on numerous occasions that defence exports to Myanmar are banned. The 2017 ruling by Israel’s Supreme Court also imposed a gag order at the request of the state, meaning that the media cannot cite the verdict. However, the legal complaint filed by Mack aims to shed light on this issue and calls for a criminal investigation into the actions of Cognyte and the defence and foreign ministry officials involved in the deal.
This is a developing story and more information is likely to come to light in the coming days. However, it is clear that the sale of intercept spyware to Myanmar by Cognyte has raised serious concerns about the actions of the company and the potential involvement of defence and foreign ministry officials in the deal. The calls for a criminal investigation will likely be closely watched by the international community as the situation in Myanmar continues to evolve.