Cambridge University bosses halt talks over potential £400m deal with UAE amid claims of phone hacking
Cambridge University bosses halt talks over potential £400m deal with UAE after phone hacking scandal
- Cambridge University has halted talks over £400m partnership with United Arab Emirates over phone hacking claims
- The UAE is accused of using military-grade Pegasus software to hack into phones and access photos, messages, emails and passwords
- A Supreme Court judge ruled that the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed, carried out an illegal British phone hacking racket with Pegasus
Cambridge University has pulled out of talks with the United Arab Emirates over a potential £400m partnership over alleged use of controversial hacking software.
Unveiled in July, the deal was announced as a collaboration between the university and “various educational, government and business partners” in the UAE.
But last night, Cambridge Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope revealed that negotiations had broken down.
He indicated that the decision was made after the alleged use of military spyware in the UAE known as Pegasus, which has the ability to hack into phones and transfer photos, messages, emails, contacts, passwords and other data.
Last week, a Supreme Court judge ruled that the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, was running an illegal British phone hacking racket using Pegasus.
It can even turn a phone into a clan-destined eavesdropping device.
Israeli technology company NSO Group only sells the spyware to governments, including the UAE.
Last week, a Supreme Court judge ruled that the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, had an illegal British phone hacking racket with Pegasus.
Sheikh Mohammed, a close friend of the royal family, was able to snoop through the parliamentary emails of Tory peer and former royal lawyer Fiona Shackleton.
He also hacked into the iPhone of her client Princess Haya, the wife of the sheik who fled to Britain in fear for her life.
The phone hacking, which was “more likely than not” personally ordered by the sheik, was discovered by Cherie, former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s lawyer, through her ties to NSO Group.
The sheikh had access to the emails of former royal lawyer Fiona Shackleton (right). He also hacked into the iPhone of her client Princess Haya (left) – his ex-wife who has fled to Britain.
Princess Haya’s Legal Team Says Five Laws Have Been Violated by the Ruler of Dubai
Mr Toope told Cambridge’s student newspaper Varsity: ‘The revelations about Pegasus have made us decide that it is not the right time to pursue these kinds of really ambitious plans with the United Arab Emirates.’
He emphasized, “You have to assess the opportunity presented to make a difference in the world and the reputational risks of a whole range of important values for the university.”
He added: “For now, it’s all on hold.”
The University and College Union, which represents academics, had accused the UAE of trying to “launder its reputation” and said it would be “shameful” if Cambridge were “willing to be used in this way”.