Brazil police arrest two intel agents for alleged illegal surveillance

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Brazil’s federal police on Friday arrested two intelligence officials from the country’s spy agency Abin for allegedly using phone hacking tools without judicial approval.

Police said in a statement they had also carried out 25 search and seizure warrants in five states as part of the probe being led by the country’s Supreme Court.

Brazilian newspapers O Globo and Folha de S.Paulo reported that Abin officials allegedly bought the spying software FirstMile from Israeli firm Cognyte and used it to invade targets’ phones and geolocate them.

Cognyte and Abin did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Friday’s police operation, called “Last Mile” in Portuguese.

The alleged illegal surveillance took place under former President Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right former army captain who narrowly last year’s election to leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Federal police did not say whom Abin officials had targeted. Local media reported that targets included Bolsonaro’s critics, including journalists.

Police said two Abin officials were facing internal disciplinary actions and allegedly used their knowledge of the spying program as leverage to avoid dismissal.

Among targets of Friday’s search and seizure warrants was Abin’s third-highest-ranking official, Paulo Maurício Fortunato Pinto, according to Folha and O Globo. At his home, police reportedly found $170,000 in cash. He could not immediately be reached for comment.

(Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Brad Haynes and Marguerita Choy)