UK court allows businessman to sue law firm over hacked emails
Judicial Office, UK, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
UK court allows businessman to sue law firm over hacked emails

The Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice of England and Wales on Friday permitted an Iranian-American businessman to sue Dechert LLP for hacking into his email account and leaking his personal information on BitTorrent sites.

The aviation tycoon Farhad Azima alleges that the international law firm hired illegal hackers to steal privileged information about his business, leading to a London judge holding him liable for defrauding the sovereign wealth fund of UAE’s Ras Al Khaimah emirate.

Azima had been ordered to pay $4.1 million in compensation to the Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority (RAKIA) by the trial court in May 2020. He claimed that RAKIA based its case on materials stolen by mercenary hackers from two Indian companies, BellTroX InfoTech Services and CyberRoot Risk Advisory. He also claims that he was targeted in a larger campaign against former RAKIA director Dr Khater Massaad, who was removed by the Sheikh Saud government on charges of corruption.

Azima initially lost his hacking counterclaim due to lack of “sufficiently cogent evidence” but was given leave to appeal by the Court of Appeal last year.  In March 2021, the UK Court of Appeal remitted the case for retrial to the High Court in light of fresh evidence on the extent and nature of the alleged hacking campaign.

With the ruling on Friday, both Dechert LLP and its retired partner Neil Gerrard will be added as co-defendants in the ongoing case by Azima against RAKIA. The Court of Appeal has already held that the 2020 decision in favour of RAKIA will not be altered irrespective of the judgment in Azima’s counterclaim.