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Friday, August 06, 2010

Is this how Israel infiltrated Lebanese telecom? (updated)

In recent weeks there has been a rash of arrests of alleged Israeli spies in Lebanon, many of whom worked for Lebanese cell phone and land-line based communications companies.

Naharnet has this interesting article:
In the aftermath of the July 2006 war, Ogero landline phone network sought a tender for the purchase a computer software called "mediation" which provides for the transfer of phone calls received from cellular phones to the landline network and vice versa, in addition to detailed bills, As-Safir newspaper reported Friday.

This attracted bids from six top companies, As-Safir said, until a French firm finally got the tender.

According to the daily, however, the French firm in turn put forward software that bears the name "Kabira" which operates under "Star Ventures," a leading Israeli venture capital fund.

The newspaper said the identity of the Israeli company was not clear at first, but the low prices it offered stirred up doubt by a Lebanese company, prompting it to search for the firm's "family tree."

Here's the surprise: well-known businessmen and Israeli officers are in charge of managing and financing Kabira.

The ministry under Telecoms Minister Marwan Hamadeh at the time gave a simple explanation to the flow of inquirers: "We chose this bid because it was less by $3,000,000 compared to other tenders, without looking into the corporate identity."
UPDATE: commenter T34zakat notices that Kabira has a lot of investors, and Star Ventures is only one of them. Star Ventures is headquartered in Germany and has an office in Israel and Silicon Valley - not surprising for a VC firm specializing in software. This is far from a smoking gun; and there is zero indication from this that the Kabira software was created in Israel.