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Israeli intel firm Black Cube denies claim it hacked Nigeria's president

In this image taken from video, Chris Wylie gives evidence to the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee's inquiry into fake news, in Portcullis House, London, Tuesday March 27, 2018.
PA via AP

Israeli intelligence firm Black Cube on Tuesday vehemently denied allegations by a whistle-blower that the firm attempted to hack the health records of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari during that country's 2015 election. 

Christopher Wylie's dramatic claims about the inner workings of British-based firm Cambridge Analytica have thrown Facebook, which gave it access to user's data, under intense scrutiny and shone fresh light of behind-the-scenes moves to influence elections. 

Appearing at a parliamentary committee in London on Tuesday, Wylie said that Black Cube was engaged by Cambridge Analytica and a Canadian firm, Aggregate IQ, to undermine Buhari's campaign against incumbent Goodluck Jonathan. 

"Black Cube on the Nigeria project was engaged to hack the now president of Nigeria, Buhari, to get access to his medical records and private emails," Wylie charged at the committee.

Last year BlackCube was thrust from the shadows when the New Yorker magazine reported that the company was engaged by disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein to discredit and intimidate alleged victims of his prolific sexual abuse. 

Shortly after Wylie's testimony, the Tel Aviv-based company described the claims as a "flagrant lie" and threatened to sue Wylie and Cambridge Analytica's parent company, SCL, for "any pound they still have or don't have."

Sunday AGHAEZE (AFP)

"Whilst we are flattered that we are seemingly being connected with every international incident that occurs, we will state that Chris Wylie’s testimony is a flagrant lie," Black Cube said in a statement. 

"We categorically declare that neither Black Cube, nor any of its affiliates and subsidiaries, have ever worked for, or engaged with, SCL, Cambridge Analytica, or any of their affiliates and subsidiaries."

"In addition, Black Cube has never operated in Nigeria or for any Nigerian connected project and none of its employees has ever put his foot in Nigeria connected to her projects."

Wylie said that UK's Channel 4 has undercover footage of Cambridge Analytica's since-suspended chief discussing the company's relationship with BlackCube. 

He said that for unspecified reasons "they haven't been able to put [the footage] into the public domain."

However the Israeli firm released letters from Cambridge Analytica stating that it was the television journalist who first mentions Black Cube, and that it is "not clear to whom he refers in his response."

Wylie said that AIQ distributed "incredibly anti-Islamic and threatening messages portraying Muslims as violent" during the Nigerian election, in order to harm Buhari, a Muslim. 

There was no suggestion Black Cube was involved in this effort. 

Buhari's health is a topic of fervent speculation in Nigeria, from where he was absent for several months last year, reportedly receiving medical treatment in London. 

In 2016, an Israeli employee of the company was convicted in Romania of trying to intimidate the country's  anti-corruption chief.

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