According to the French daily Le Monde, phone numbers belonging to Nasser al-Khelaifi, the Qatari president of football club Paris Saint-Germain and CEO of beIN Sports, were among those possibly targeted by the Pegasus spyware.
Pegasus, a software package developed by the Israeli firm NSO, has been linked to widespread monitoring of journalists, human rights activists, and at least 14 presidents of state, as well as numerous of their family members.
Their phone numbers were among around 50,000 possible monitoring targets on a list released by Amnesty International and Forbidden Stories, which was shared with a group of news organizations.
Pegasus can hack into a user’s phone without them knowing, allowing clients to read all of their messages, monitor their position, and access the phone’s camera and microphone, thus converting the phone into a surveillance device.
Two mobile numbers of al-Khelaifi were also found on the leaked list, according to a Le Monde investigation.
According to Le Monde, the same client who used Pegasus to potentially hack the phones of beIN Media Group’s management also targeted senior Turkish, Emirati, and Lebanese officials, as well as several voices critical of Saudi Arabia’s monarchy, implying that the hacking was carried out by Saudi security agencies.
The suspected hacking of al-Khelaifi’s phones occurred in 2018, at the height of the Gulf conflict pitting Qatar against Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt, according to the newspaper. These four nations imposed a nearly four-year diplomatic and commercial boycott on Qatar in June 2017.
Al-Khelaifi was at the center of a controversy between Qatar and Saudi Arabia over the pirate channel BeoutQ, which used beIN’s signals to broadcast major football events and competitions.
Qatar has filed a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) against BeoutQ’s operations soon before al-Khelaifi might have been a victim of the Pegasus hack, according to Le Monde. Qatar requested $1 billion in damages from the pirate station in the case.