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New Delhi: The University of Cambridge has decided to call off a record deal worth 400 million pounds with the United Arab Emirates because of the country’s alleged use of Pegasus spyware, The Guardian has reported. If the deal had gone through, the report says, it would have been the largest donation in the varsity’s history.
In July, Cambridge had touted the proposed alliance as a “potential strategic partnership … helping to solve some of the greatest challenges facing our planet”.
Now, however, the university’s outgoing vice-chancellor Stephen Toope has said that all talks with the UAE are suspended because of the Pegasus revelations.
In July this year, a global consortium of media organisations including The Wire released the Pegasus Project, an investigation into a leaked database of potential targets of the spyware created and sold by the Israeli company, NSO Group. The NSO Group has said repeatedly that it only sells this highly invasive spyware, which can take control of a mobile phone, to “vetted governments”.
The UAE is believed to be responsible for potentially targeting several of UK numbers found on the database. “The phones of Sheikh Mohammed’s daughter Princess Latifa and his ex-wife Princess Haya, who fled the country and came to the UK in 2019, both appeared in the data,” Guardian reported.
“There were further revelations about Pegasus that really caused us to decide that it’s not the right time to be pursuing these kinds of really ambitious plans with the UAE,” Toope reportedly told a student newspaper at Cambridge.
He also clarified that the university wasn’t likely to take this money soon, “No one’s going to be rushing into this. There will be no secret arrangements being made. I think we’re going to have to have a robust discussion at some point in the future. Or we may determine that it’s not worth raising again. I honestly don’t know.”
According to Toope, he had never met the ruling crown prince. “There are existing relationships across the university on a departmental and individual academic level but there are no conversations about a big project,” he said. “We’re aware of the risks in dealing with many states around the world but we think it’s worth having the conversation.”
The Pegasus Project revelations were made public very soon after the Cambridge-UAE deal became public.