Israeli Cyber Startup Senpai Helped Malaysia’s Corrupt Leader Spy on Opposition
Documents submitted to an Israeli court revealed Senpai’s methods of operation and its ties to questionable regimes, including its $1.5 million deal to supply Malaysia’s intelligence agency with surveillance tools to be used on civilians
Tomer Ganon and Hagar Ravet
In May 2018, Malaysia faced an especially turbulent election. The Muslim country’s veteran ruling party—led by the allegedly corrupt Prime Minister Najib Razak—was gasping for air.
During the campaign, no less than 2,300 candidates were attempting to dethrone Najib, who, throughout his 10-year reign, had rolled back human rights in the country, persecuted minority religious groups and members of the LGBTQ community, diminished free speech, and limited the freedom of the press. Najib was also accused of embezzling billions in state funds, and he and his family members were known for their lavish, eye-popping lifestyle.
The pressure felt by Najib’s party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), was so immense that, just over a month before the election, the Malaysian government signed a deal to acquire a system that allowed it to gather information and analyze data on civilian activity. The system was meant to be used by Malaysian intelligence agency the Special Branch (SB) to surveil political activists for the opposition, according to court documents obtained and reviewed by Calcalist. The company that developed and supplied the system to the Malaysian government was Senpai Technologies Ltd., a small Israeli cybersecurity startup. The deal was signed in April 2018 with a price tag of $1.5 million and received the code name “Project Magnum.” Since Israel and Malaysia have no official diplomatic relations, the deal was signed through a Cypriot conduit company called Kohai Corp. Ltd., founded by two Senpai shareholders for the sole purpose of serving as a front for such deals. The Malaysian government’s plans for Senpai’s system were not kept secret from the company and its use for “political investigations״ is specifically mentioned in internal email correspondence. Malaysia was not Senpai’s only controversial potential client and, according to documents reviewed by Calcalist, it had previously negotiated a deal to sell its services to the Sultanate of Oman on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, which also has no diplomatic ties to Israel.
Najib’s govt paid Israeli firm Senpai US$1.5 mil to spy on PH, says reportBy FocusM | 27 minutes ago | Mainstream
The government of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak signed a US$1.5 mil (RM6.5 mil) deal in April 2018 with Israeli firm Senpai Technologies Ltd to surveil the movements of Pakatan Harapan, according to court documents sighted by tech news site Calcalist.
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Research & Development company, which offers a range of Cyber Intelligence Solutions for the Government &Business sector
SENPAI is a consulting, Research & Development company which offers a wide range of Cyber Intelligence & Tailor-made Security solutions for the government and business sector. Out solutions are designed to enable these organizations to effectively gather unique, high value, Actionable intelligence regarding their subject of interest, and hot topics across the surface of the Internet and the Dark web. SENPAI was founded by experienced visionaries, business & technology leaders with vast experience in both technical and operational aspects of intelligence gathering, and intelligence systems, based on which we invest substantial efforts to address today’s ever-changing challenges.
Report: Israeli cyber startup helped Najib spy on opposition in 2018
Published 10:42 am
Modified 12:08 pm
Court documents in Israel have allegedly revealed that cyber startup company Senpai Technologies signed a US$1.5 million (RM6.5 million) deal to supply Malaysia’s Special Branch with surveillance tools that were used to help former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak maintain surveillance on his political opposition in the run-up to the 14th general election.
According to a report by Isreal’s technology news site “CTech”, the Malaysian government signed a deal to acquire a system that allowed it to gather information and analyse data on civilian activity.
The system was meant to be used by the Malaysian intelligence agency the Special Branch (SB) to surveil opposition political activists, according to court documents obtained and reviewed by Calcalist, Israel’s leading financial daily.
The company that developed and supplied the system was Senpai Technologies Ltd, a small Israeli cybersecurity startup which signed the deal in April 2018, just a month before Najib led BN to its first-ever defeat.
The deal, which carried a price tag of US$1.5 million, was carried out under the code name “Project Magnum.”
As Israel and Malaysia have no official diplomatic ties, the deal was signed through a Cypriot conduit company called Kohai Corp Ltd which was founded by two of Senpai’s shareholders allegedly for the sole purpose of serving as a front for such deals.
According to the documents, Najib’s BN government’s plans for Senpai’s system were not kept secret from the company and its use for “political investigations״ is specifically mentioned in internal e-mail correspondence.
Senpai, which was founded in 2015, has since frozen activities amidst bankruptcy filings and lawsuits between its founding members.