Israeli spies impersonated journalists to gather info from Emirati dissidents: Report

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The Emirati, Israeli and US flags sway in the wind at the Abu Dhabi airport at the arrival of the first-ever commercial flight from Israel to the UAE, on August 31, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

A private Israeli spy company has reportedly impersonated journalists in order to elicit information from opponents of the leadership of Ras Al Khaimah, one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The Daily Beast reported last week that individuals pretending to be a Fox News researcher and a reporter for Italy’s La Stampa newspaper approached two men, who have fallen afoul of the Ras Al Khaimah regime, in early 2020.

The journalist impersonators, it added, tried to trick the two men into divulging information about their legal disputes with the Emirati authorities.

Facebook revealed that the accounts used by the two supposed journalists were associated with the private Israeli intelligence firm Bluehawk CI.

In one of the cases, a woman claiming to be named “Samantha,” a FOX News journalist, contacted Oussama el-Omari by email, trying to obtain information about his legal rifts with the Ras Al Khaimah regime.

Omari, former chief executive and director general of the Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone Authority, was convicted in absentia in the UAE  for “embezzlement and abuse of position” following a succession battle in the emirate.

Similarly, another Facebook user pretending to be a La Stampa reporter contacted Khater Massaad, another foe of the current Ras Al Khaimah leadership.

Massaad was convicted by an Emirati court in 2015 of embezzlement from Ras Al Khaimah’s sovereign wealth fund, RAKIA.

Both Omari and Massaad say the charges against them are politically motivated.

Meanwhile, a Times of Israel investigation found that Guy Klisman, a former major in the Israel Army who owns Bluehawk CI, has a history of prior fraud prosecutions in the occupied territories.

Established in June 2018, the company claims on its website that it offers cyber technologies and intelligence solutions, including “social engineering & PR campaign management” and “complex intelligence investigations.”

Last year’s normalization of ties between Israel and the UAE paved the way for lucrative deals by Israeli intelligence and cybersecurity firms in the Persian Gulf country.

Commenting on the Daily Beast report, Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, a company that represents clients in legal disputes with the UAE governments, said she believes the government of Ras Al Khaimah is responsible.

“This is monstrous,” Stirling emphasized in a press release. “By contracting the espionage out to a private firm, the government of Ras Al Khaimah is trying to avoid accountability for spying on foreign nationals outside their jurisdiction; but this is a major breach and the UAE and Israel must be called to account.”

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