UAE Commissioned Private Intelligence Firm for Surveillance and Disinformation Campaigns, Documents Reveal

In a groundbreaking revelation, confidential documents obtained by Mediapart and shared with the European Consortium of Investigative Journalists have exposed the United Arab Emirates (UAE) commissioning of a private intelligence firm based in Geneva for a wide-ranging surveillance operation, as well as disinformation and influence campaigns.

This investigative report by Marc Menichini and Julien Chiffelle sheds light on the activities of Alp Services and its operations carried out on behalf of the UAE.

The report gained access to a trove of data through a European consortium of investigative journalists, which includes tens of thousands of documents, including a diagram listing 1,000 individuals in Europe suspected of having connections to Qatar or the Muslim Brotherhood.

The report highlights instances where the surveillance went to alarming lengths, such as targeting a human rights activist in French-speaking Switzerland. The leaked report included 27 photos, the activist’s address, and detailed records of her movements on public transport and in the streets.

Another case exposed by the investigation involved a disinformation campaign against Nicolas Blancho, the President of the Swiss Islamic Central Council. The leaked report revealed that Alp Services had manipulated his Wikipedia page in French, introducing references to his alleged ties to Qatar and extremism. These alterations were designed to be prominently displayed in Google search results in Switzerland, Belgium, and France.

The list of targets also included Islamologist Tariq Ramadan. When contacted, Nicolas Blancho and Tariq Ramadan denied the accuracy of the descriptions attributed to them. They attributed the UAE’s interest in them to their support for the Arab Spring.

Several non-governmental organizations and Pascal Gemperli, the Secretary General of the Union vaudoise des associations musulmanes, were also targeted. Gemperli expressed his shock and dismay, stating that being associated with such allegations and controversial figures could be damaging and unjust guilt by association.

When approached for comment, Alp Services declined to respond. Their lawyers stated, “It is clear from the endless list of questions you are asking our principals that the documents in your hands are partly falsified. What’s more, most of the facts that form the basis of your questions are based on erroneous assumptions or incredible flights of fancy.”

The UAE did not respond to requests for comment. Many victims of this operation are now preparing legal proceedings. When questioned about the activities of Alp Services, the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland has refrained from making any comments.

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