Swiss Firm ALP Services Under Multiple Investigations for Alleged Espionage and Misinformation Campaigns for the UAE

ALP Services, a private intelligence agency headquartered in Switzerland, is currently under investigation in both France and Switzerland for purportedly conducting extensive surveillance, misinformation, and influence operations for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from 2017 to 2020. According to allegations, the firm and its director Mario Brero compiled and disseminated personal data of 1,000 European citizens—such as names, addresses, whereabouts, or telephone numbers—and wrongfully linked individuals to organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood without legitimate grounds.

Victims of these alleged activities are spread across 18 European countries and include notable figures such as French politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Nicolas Blancho, president of the Swiss Islamic Central Council, as well as institutions like the CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research).

Scope and Methodology of the Alleged Operations:

Reports suggest that ALP Services was involved in a multi-phased operation named “Arnica,” “Quino,” “Narcisse,” and “Crocus,” during which it allegedly received over 5 million Swiss francs from the UAE. These activities were reportedly approved by Sheikh Ali Saeed al-Neyadi, a senior Emirati official.

The firm is accused of tracking and profiling more than 1,000 individuals and 400 organizations across Europe — from politicians and human rights advocates to researchers and NGOs — falsely associating them with Qatar (a political and economic rival of the UAE) or the Muslim Brotherhood (which the UAE considers a terrorist organization).

ALP Services is also accused of creating and spreading false media content and manipulating digital information to discredit targets. Leaked documents highlight a successful disinformation campaign against Nicolas Blancho, linking him to Qatar, particularly through the addition of an “Extremist Views” tab on his Wikipedia page. Despite a previous conviction related to Al-Qaeda, Blancho has condemned these allegations:

“It is obviously worrying and problematic that a company collects, discloses information, and attempts to initiate defamation campaigns on behalf of a foreign state under the guise of its commercial activities.”

Notable misinformation campaigns were also reportedly directed at Tariq Ramadan, a prominent Swiss Islamic scholar, and organizations such as Islamic Relief Worldwide. Both parties attribute the UAE’s targeting to their support for the Arab Spring and their humanitarian efforts, respectively.

Legal Entanglements and Investigations:

The Swiss Public Prosecutor has initiated a criminal investigation against ALP Services for suspected serious offenses including espionage and illegal operations for a foreign state. This inquiry was triggered by extensive media revelations, which detailed a vast operation involving data collection and political manipulation efforts. Furthermore, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and the Swiss Money Laundering Reporting Office have filed complaints against the firm for breaching national security and intelligence laws.

As mentioned, high-profile Swiss figures such as Tariq Ramadan were among those targeted, with allegations linking them to terrorism and the Muslim Brotherhood.

In France, separate legal actions have been filed by individuals such as activist Rokhaya Diallo and a Mediapart journalist, respectively accusing ALP Services of wrongful data usage and defamation related to wrongful association with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Reactions and Broader Implications:

These investigations and legal challenges underscore the growing concerns about the use of private firms for espionage and political warfare, reflecting the complex intersections of international relations, privacy rights, and corporate ethics.

The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs has faced criticism for its slow response to the violations, prompting increased calls for transparency and stricter regulation to prevent similar incidents in the future.

As of now, ALP Services and the UAE have not officially responded to the allegations, and the outcomes of the ongoing investigations and legal proceedings are expected to unfold over an extended period.

The diversity of individuals targeted by ALP Services for the UAE is notable. Politicians, journalists, activists, and religious figures have all been subjected to surveillance and discredited through false allegations.

The case continues to evolve as more individuals and organizations come forward with claims of being unjustly targeted by ALP Services’ operations.

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