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Tomás Zerón de Lucio

Tomás Zerón de Lucio
Tomás Zerón de Lucio is a former Mexican government official who played a role on public security matters under the administrations of Felipe Calderón Hinojosa and Enrique Peña Nieto.

Between 2013-2016, Zerón served as the head of Mexico’s Criminal Investigations Agency (AIC) under President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration. Zéron oversaw the mass expansion of the attorney general office's use of surveillance technology, purchasing the Pegasus surveillance software in 2014 from Israeli spyware firm NSO Group. Between 2012 and 2018, Mexico spent about $300 million in government contracts with NSO Group alone, many of which were issued during Zerón’s time as head of the AIC. Leaked emails revealed that Zéron had developed a close partnership with Uri Emmanuel Ansbacher, the Mexico representative of NSO Group. Together, the two men arranged a lucrative kickback deal for the purchases of NSO Group spyware. Mexico rapidly became NSO's largest state client, using its range of spyware technology to target journalists, dissidents, human rights lawyers, politicians from all political affiliations, and more – including the sixteen-year-old child of Carmen Aristegui, a prominent Mexican journalist who uncovered the Casa Blanca scandal. Investigators identified over 15,000 numbers selected by the Mexican government for potential Pegasus surveillance – by far the largest of any country.

In 2014, after the infamous disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa, Zerón was tasked with investigating the case and seeking justice for the victims. To erase state culpability in the incident, Zerón used Pegasus software to surveil the communications of lawyers and advocates for the victims’ families, as well as a group of international investigators tasked with working on the case. Zerón took extra steps to torture witnesses and destroy evidence from the incident. Zerón resigned from his post in 2016 after public pressure continued to mount on the state to solve the case.

Months after Andrés Manuel López Obrador became president in 2018, he appointed a commission to further investigate the case. Zerón fled the country shortly after, using his close ties to the Israeli cyberweapon industry to find refuge in Israel. Since 2019, Zerón has been sought by the Mexican legal authorities on multiple charges, including misappropriation of funds, torture, obstruction of justice, and offences against public administration. Israel has refused to extradite Zerón to Mexico, despite repeated requests from the Mexican government to do so. 

In December 2020, Proseco reported that Tomás Zerón was peacefully residing in a posh Tel Aviv apartment owned by Israeli businessman David Avital. A long-time friend of Zerón, Avital is a former director and large shareholder (31%) of M.T.R.X. Technologies, a subsidiary of the Israeli cyber surveillance company Rayzone and developer of military-grade cell phone tracking software. Avital also owns 100% of the IDR company in Mexico, which markets wiretapping tools marketed by Rayzone. 

Zerón also holds ties with Tal Hanan, the head of Team Jorge – a group of Israeli private hacking and misinformation contractors. In the summer of 2020, Team Jorge launched a failed public opinion campaign on social media, calling on its A.I.M.S. false avatar creation software to rescue Zerón’s reputation. The fake profiles posted articles and videos showing flattering photos of Zerón, emphasizing his heroic work in capturing the drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, and argued that the charges against him were politically motivated. They accused Andrés Manual López Obrador of corruption and shared news articles – likely also planted by Team Jorge – which painted Zerón in a positive light.