We filed a criminal complaint: Prosecutor launches investigation into FinFisher for illegal export of state spyware

The state spyware FinFisher is developed in Munich and sold all over the world. The company needs approval for exports, but the German government has never granted that. Together with other NGOs, we have filed a criminal complaint. Customs is investigating, the crime is punishable by prison sentence up to five years.

office building
FinFisher is developed and sold in this office building in Munich. CC-BY 4.0 netzpolitik.org

This is a translation of our original German reporting.

Bahrain, Egypt, Ethiopia: Dictatorships around the world rely on surveillance technology „made in Germany“. The state spyware FinFisher or FinSpy is developed in Munich and sold to police and secret services in dozens of countries, including the German Federal Police.

To export such malware, FinFisher needs a license in accord with German and European law. However, the German Government has never issued one. Export without a license is a criminal offense. Thus we have filed a criminal complaint against the responsible companies and their managing directors.

Together with the Society for Civil Rights, Reporters without Borders and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, we wrote a 21-page criminal complaint and an eight-page technical appendix, which we submitted to the public prosecutor’s office in Munich on July 5. Now they are investigating.

Our accusations are being taken seriously: The case was escalated directly to the Federal Customs Criminal Investigation Office, which is responsible for violations of the Foreign Trade and Payments Act.

From Munich via Turkey to prison?

Our principle case is Turkey. After the 2016 coup d’état attempt, the Turkish government arrested more than 77,000 people, including 34 journalists. A broad coalition of civil resistance organized against this repression, including the 2017 March for Justice.

During that time, a website „Walk for justice“ appeared, which offered an Android app to help organize the protest movement. This website was advertised on social media. But the app, which is still available today, is a camouflaged state spyware. After installation, it takes complete control of the device, monitors communication and extracts data.

In a detailed technical analysis and a technical appendix we prove that this Turkish state spyware is the German product FinFisher/FinSpy. We then analyze the company structure of FinFisher and suspicious individuals.

We are certain: FinFisher is developed in Munich and FinFisher was sold to Turkey without permission. That is a crime, punishable by a prison sentence up to five years. We hope that the authorities investigate extensively and confirm our accusations.

Until then, German authorities should stop using tools for dictators themselves and stop subsidizing such companies with taxpayers‘ money.

The legal documents are available in English as PDF and in German as HTML.

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