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British firm with links to William Hague sells 'protester-tracking' product to Iran

British firm with links to William Hague sells 'protester-tracking' product to Iran

A British technology firm with links to William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, has sold a product to Iran which could be used to track down protesters.

[Image: William-Hague_2026282c.jpg] William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, has links to Creativity Software Photo: PA

By Holly Watt, Claire Newell and Helia Ebrahimi

7:15AM GMT 07 Nov 2011

Creativity Software sold the product to the regime despite concerns that it has been used to round up activists communicating with their mobile phones.

The main bankroller of the company is MMC Ventures, whose chief executive and chairman both funded Mr Hague's private office until recently.

The disclosure could prove embarrassing to Mr Hague who has been a critic of Iran, but the Government has not blocked the sale of such products to the regime, which has crushed Arab Spring protests.

Creativity Software secured a contract two years ago to "provide lawful intercept solutions" to Iran. The company's website describes how the systems can be used to pinpoint a person's location and track their movements.

MMC Ventures is a major shareholder in Creativity Software. The chief executive of MMC is Bruce Macfarlane and the chairman is Alan Morgan, both of whom paid part of the salary of Chloe Dalton, a researcher for Mr Hague between 2006 and 2009. They contributed £25,000 to Mr Hague's private office.

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Iran heavily restricted the use of mobile networks after the country's June 2009 elections. The Creativity Software deal with Irancell, one of the biggest mobile phone networks in Iran, was signed on Aug 1 of that year. Saeid Pourheydar, an Iranian journalist, said he was presented with his "entire phone history" when he was arrested and claimed the technology helped the regime track protesters.
"The biggest problem is that with this technology they can find exactly where you are. You don't even have to be on the phone, they can simply track you down just through your mobile phone when it is lying on a coffee table," he said.
"There should be pressure on anyone connected to them, including the UK Government, the Conservative Party and William Hague." Lord Alton of Liverpool, a leading member of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom, said last night that Mr Hague faced "serious questions" over his links to MMC.
"It is clear that the use of mobile phones has been crucial in allowing the people of Iran to arrange demonstrations and promote human rights, and the fact that a British company would sell technology that could be used to asphyxiate these demonstrations is unthinkable, especially when we know that many of the dissidents have been tortured and executed," he said.
"The Government must have known what this technology was capable of, and if William Hague is linked to a company behind this export then that is a very serious question and he needs to answer it."
Mr Macfarlane said: "Nothing is exported without UK approval, so you need to talk to the UK government. We have no further comment." He did not respond to questions about his donations to Mr Hague's private office.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said the software was not covered by export controls. A spokesman said: "The Government actively discourages all trade with Iran. We take any reports of exports being misused overseas seriously. It does not appear that the exporter has broken the law."
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