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Mauritania Releases Bodyguard Who Got Arrested After Spyware Deal Went Wrong

After 20 months of detention inside a Mauritanian military camp, Cristian Provvisionato is going back home.

by Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai
May 12 2017, 3:36pm

In January, Motherboard reported the story of an Italian bodyguard who had been detained in the western African country of Mauritania for 20 months, a forgotten prisoner of a spyware deal gone wrong. On Friday, after months of negotiations, Italian authorities announced that the man has been released, and he's on his way back home.

"Cristian Provvisionato is free," Italy's foreign minister Angelino Alfano wrote on Twitter.

Alessandra Gullo, Provvisionato's partner, announced the news in a Facebook support group.

"I love you so much!" she wrote.

Provvisionato travelled to Mauritania in August of 2015. At the time, the man was working for an Italian contractor, who sent him to Africa on behalf of the German spyware vendor Wolf Intelligence. The company had reached an agreement with the Mauritanian government for the sale of a series of spyware products, but at some point, the deal went south, and the Mauritanian government arrested Provvisionato, holding him as some kind of hostage.

"It's over!" said his brother, Maurizio Provvisionato, in an online chat.

On Friday, according to Gullo, Provvisionato called his mother around 2:30 p.m., Italy time, to tell her he was headed to the airport.

"I want to go home and back to my life," Provvisionato told Motherboard earlier this year.

20 months after setting foot in Mauritania, his wish is about to become reality.

Federico Formica contributed reporting for this article.

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