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Friday, May 29, 2020

Najib: Senpai deal 3 times bigger under Harapan, ask Dr M about it

Malaysiakini

The proposed phase 2 deal allegedly discussed between Israeli cyber startup Senpai and Malaysian agencies under the Pakatan Harapan administration was three times larger than the surveillance agreement signed in April 2018 prior to GE 14, said former premier Najib Abdul Razak.
"The phase 2 deal discussed after GE14 was greatly expanded and three times the value of phase 1. It includes the Special Branch (SB), MACC and the Prime Minister's Office under Dr Mahathir (Mohamad).
"Since the PMO is now mentioned, you should ask Mahathir then as well as the MACC head under Mahathir (Latheefa Koya) too," he told Malaysiakini  today.
Najib was responding to a report by Isreal's technology news site CTech which cited court documents in claiming that the Malaysian government signed a deal to acquire a system that allowed it to gather information and analyse data on civilian activity.
The system was meant to be used by the SB to surveil political activists for the opposition, according to court documents obtained and reviewed by CalcalistCTech's affiliated newspaper.
The company that developed and supplied the system was Senpai Technologies Ltd, a small Israeli cybersecurity startup which signed the deal in April 2018, just a month before Najib led BN to its first-ever electoral defeat.
In a Facebook post in which he called Malaysiakini and Malaysia Dateline (which he said is Amanah's mouthpiece) “mischievous”, Najib said it was clear that phase 1 was a deal involving the SB and not the PMO.
 "I do not interfere or instruct the SB on what to buy or who to buy from. Is it my job to evaluate and find software to buy?
"Also, I was not the home minister then and the article clearly said that it wasn't the PMO which bought (the technology) in April 2018," he added.
For the record, the home minister at the time was Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is the current Umno president.
'Could not have been implemented in time for GE14'
Najib also expressed doubts that any technology purchased in April 2018 would have been immediately implemented.
"Certainly the system, although signed in April 2018, would not have been used or implemented in time for GE14," he said.
"Also the government was dissolved and we were busy with our respective GE14 campaigns," said Najib, who complained that only his name was mentioned in the news reports' headlines.
The deal, which carried a price tag of US$1.5 million, was carried out under the code name “Project Magnum.”
According to the documents, the BN government's plans for Senpai's system were not kept secret from the company and its use for “political investigations״ is specifically mentioned in internal e-mail correspondence.
Senpai, which was founded in 2015, has since frozen activities amidst bankruptcy filings and lawsuits between its founding members.
Notably, as recently as the middle of last year, the report claimed the company was discussing the possibility of a new contract with the Malaysian Special Branch, which had new implications in the aftermath of Najib's historic defeat.
The indication is that the objective of surveillance changed after the elections from political investigations to more criminal-terror investigations.
The court documents also revealed that in an email discussion involving Senpai co-founder Eric Banoun on the proposed phase 2 agreements which were discussed after Harapan had taken over in May 2018, Banoun estimated the deal could be worth US$300,000-US$400,000 with the SB, between US$2 million and US$2.5 million with the PMO, between US$800,000 and US$2.2 million with the MACC and a similar sum with the police.
CTech is a technology news site run by Calcalist, which is Israel's leading financial daily. The latter is part of the Yedioth Ahronoth Group, which also publishes Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's most widely-circulated newspaper. - Mkini

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