The allegation was reported by Greek media last year but a hearing only took place after leader of the country's socialist opposition submitted a complaint to prosecutors in late July.

The EU considers the use of spyware against journalists unacceptable.
The EU considers the use of spyware against journalists unacceptable. (Reuters Archive)

The head of Greek intelligence has admitted that his agency had spied on Thanasis Koukakis, a financial journalist who works for CNN Greece, in a disclosure that coincides with growing pressure on the government to shed light on the use of surveillance malware.

Panagiotis Kontoleon, chief of the EYP intelligence service, told parliament's institutions and transparency committee that his service had spied on the journalist, two lawmakers present at the hearing last week said.

"He admitted the surveillance, absolutely," one of the lawmakers said on Wednesday, declining to be identified because the July 29 meeting was private. Kontoleon declined to comment when contacted.

The committee's hearing was called after the leader of the socialist opposition PASOK party lodged a complaint with top court prosecutors over an attempted bugging of his mobile phone with surveillance software.

PASOK leader Nikos Androulakis made his complaint amid growing concern among European Union officials about spyware merchants and the use of surveillance software.

READ MORE: EU probes signs of Pegasus spyware use on top official phones

Predator surveillance software

In April, a Greek prosecutor began an investigation into an allegation by Koukakis that his smartphone had been infected by surveillance software.

Last year when the allegation was reported by Greek media, left wing SYRIZA, Greece's largest opposition party, asked for the parliamentary committee to convene to look into the matter.

Its request was turned down by the committee chairman. But after Androulakis submitted his complaint to prosecutors in late July, a request by both SYRIZA and PASOK for the committee to convene was accepted and a hearing followed.

SYRIZA has formally asked the prime minister to shed light on both cases which, it says, involve the use of Predator surveillance software, citing major issues for democracy and citizens' privacy rights.

At the hearing, EYP chief Kontoleon, who reports directly to the prime minister, noted that EYP performs its work not only based on its own information but at times after tips or requests by foreign intelligence services, the two sources said.

Journalist Koukakis, whose work has included investigative reporting on financial crimes, remains baffled why he was bugged: "I am surprised that areas that I cover as a reporter, economic policy and the banking system, can be a national security threat," he said.

Government spokesperson Giannis Oikonomou said that Greek authorities do not use the spyware allegedly deployed in the hacking of Koukakis and do not do business with companies selling it.

"The government has nothing to hide and has called on the justice system to investigate the cases thoroughly," he said.

"Without crossing to the extreme of technophobia, such malware does pose a threat and must be tackled efficiently."

READ MORE: Turkish intelligence agency nabs Greek spy

Source: Reuters