The nature of the hack behind Varela Leaks is contested. According to the leakers, they had the physical phone itself, calling it "the lost telephone of the ex-President of Panama." In this version of events, the hacking was purely in the extraction and decryption of the 25 gigabytes of data.
Varela denied that his phone was lost or stolen, and insisted that it had been hacked by people working with or for his predecessor, Ricardo Martinelli, using NSO Group's Pegasus system, which Martinelli's administration was a client of. Varela admitted that most of the communications were his, but claimed others were edited or fabricated.
Notably, the original upload on Mega remained available several years later.
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