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EUROPE / INVESTIGATION- Amesys: Egyptian trials and tribulations of a French digital arms dealer
Date of publication at Tlaxcala: 05/07/2017
Original: ENQUÊTE-Amesys : les tribulations égyptiennes d'un marchand d’armes numériques français

INVESTIGATION- Amesys: Egyptian trials and tribulations of a French digital arms dealer

Olivier Tesquet


Since selling an electronic surveillance system to the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the French company Amesys has changed its name and shareholder in order to sell its services to the new Egyptian authorities while the French state stands and looks on.

Summer 2011: Caught up in the events of the Arab spring, Muammar Gaddafi is in hiding. In a rebel-run Libya, a largely unknown French company unwillingly comes to light. In a monitoring centre in Tripoli, two journalists from the Wall Street Journal identify the company in question on a plaque: Amesys. They sold a telecommunication surveillance system to the colonel's Jamahiriya system. A 'favour' on behalf of Nicolas Sarkozy, which allowed, along with the vital help of the mediator Ziad Takieddine, Gaddafi's return to the fold of the community of nations. A year later, a judicial investigation is opened against Amesys into allegations of complicity in acts of torture. The equipment provided by Amesys would have enabled the Libyan authorities to track down and torture their opponents. The enquiry was subsequently assigned to a newly-created department in the High Court in Paris specialising in crimes against humanity. Since then, little progress has been made in this unprecedented case. All those concerned – engineers, the big bosses, victims – have all given accounts. The final custodial sentences were granted in the spring and Amesys was given the status of assisted witness on the 30th May. The company soon came to be considered as the Voldemort of electronic surveillance: the mere mention of the name produces negative reactions. However, some tongues have loosened. Following the lead of various sources, Télérama found traces of the company's activity in Egypt. In 2017, evidence came to light that a French company which had been pursued for carrying out business with a dictator, was still selling its products to similarly undesirable countries and, worse still, was doing so with the support of French authorities. Business as usual. History risks repeating itself.

Code name: Toblerone

'Never again' seemed to be the government's promise. In an interview with Le Monde in December 2013, Fleur Pellerin, the then minister in charge of digital economy, stated that France would ensure that measures were carried out to control the export of 'dual' technologies, the civilian use of which could threaten human rights. At the same time, a spokesman from the United Arab Emirates entered into negotiation with Amesys' new boss, Stéphane Salies. His country wanted to offer a present to its Egyptian neighbour which had just toppled President Morsi in favour of a military coup. The surprise was to be a 10 million euro monitoring system which was – officially- to be used against the Muslim Brotherhood. The deal was clinched within two months. The contract was signed in March 2014. In a nod to the pyramids, the operation was code-named Toblerone...

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Courtesy of Télérama
Publication date of original article: 05/07/2017
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Tags: AmesysDigital weaponsFrance-EgyptRepression

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