Cambridge University bosses halt talks over £400m deal with UAE

Cambridge University bosses halt talks over £400m deal with UAE

Cambridge University bosses halt talks over potential £400m deal with UAE after phone hacking scandal

  • Cambridge University has dropped talks over a £400million partnership with United Arab Emirates amid claims of phone hacking 
  • UAE is accused of using military-grade software Pegasus to hack phones and access photos, messages, emails and passwords
  • A High Court judge ruled that Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed ran an illegal UK phone hacking racket using Pegasus

Cambridge University has pulled out of talks with the United Arab Emirates over a potential £400million partnership due to its alleged use of controversial hacking software. 

The deal, revealed in July, was billed as a collaboration between the university and ‘several educational, governmental and corporate partners’ in UAE. 

But last night Cambridge’s vice-chancellor Stephen Toope revealed the negotiations had been broken off. 

He indicated the decision was taken after UAE’s alleged use of military-grade spyware known as Pegasus which has the ability to hack into phones and siphon off photos, messages, emails, contacts, passwords and other data. 

Last week, a High Court judge ruled that Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum ran an illegal UK phone hacking racket using Pegasus

It can even turn a phone into a clan – destine eavesdropping device. 

Israeli tech firm NSO Group only sells the spyware to governments, including the UAE. 

Last week, a High Court judge ruled that Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum ran an illegal UK phone hacking racket using Pegasus. 

Sheikh Mohammed, a close friend of the Royal Family, was able to snoop on the parliamentary emails of Tory peer and former royal lawyer Fiona Shackleton. 

He also hacked the iPhone of her client Princess Haya – the sheikh’s wife who fled to Britain in fear of her life. 

The phone hacking operation, which was ‘more probably than not’ personally ordered by the sheikh, was discovered by former PM Tony Blair’s lawyer wife Cherie through her links to NSO Group. 

The Sheikh was able to access the emails of former royal lawyer Fiona Shackleton (right). He also hacked the iPhone of her client Princess Haya (left) – his ex-wife who has fled to Britain.

Five laws broken by Dubai’s ruler according to Princess Haya’s legal team 

Mr Toope told Cambridge’s student newspaper Varsity: ‘The revelations about Pegasus caused us to decide that it’s not the right time to be pursuing these kinds of really ambitious plans with the United Arab Emirates.’

He stressed: ‘You have to assess the opportunity that’s being presented to make a difference in the world and the risks to reputation of a whole series of important values for the university.’ 

He added: ‘It’s all on hold for now.’ 

The University and College Union, which represents academics, had accused the UAE of trying to ‘launder its reputation’ and said it would be ‘shameful’ if Cambridge were ‘willing to be used in this way’.

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