Aviation executive sues law firm Dechert and others for hacking

WASHINGTON, Oct 14 (Reuters) – A U.S. aviation executive is suing a prominent Philadelphia-based law firm, a New York public relations firm and an Israeli private investigator for claiming they conspired to hijack its emails, leak them to the press and cover their tracks.

Missouri-based businessman Farhad Azima said in a lawsuit filed late Thursday that law firm Dechert and his former partner Neil Gerrard were at the center of a plot to use Indian cybermercenaries to leak his emails and then cover up their actions by destroying evidence and tampering with witnesses.

Dechert said in a statement that he denies Azima’s claims and will fight the case. A lawyer for Gerrard did not immediately return messages seeking comment. The London-based lawyer has previously denied any wrongdoing.

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Azima’s claims, filed in federal court in Manhattan, echo allegations the mogul has previously made in a pair of ongoing lawsuits in Britain and the US that say Gerrard orchestrated a hacking operation. and escape with the help of Indian spies. It also reaffirms claims made against Gerrard in another British lawsuit that accuses him of abusing a detainee in the Middle East.

The purpose, Azima claims, was to use his stolen emails to ensure he lost a UK court battle in 2016 initiated by one of Gerrard’s clients, an Emirati investment agency. A new trial in the UK hacking case – where Dechert and Gerrard are also charged – is expected in 2024.

Azima alleges in his US filing that Dechert spent a decade turning a blind eye to “increasingly clear evidence” that Gerrard – who retired in 2020 – was involved in “serious breaches of ethics, human rights violations and criminal activities, including piracy”.

The lawsuit, which seeks more than $100 million in damages and costs, also names New York-based public relations group Karv Communications and its chairman Andrew Frank as defendants, accused of leaking stolen Azima data to the press. , as well as Amir Handjani, a senior adviser to Karv and a nonresident member of the Quincy Institute, a Washington think tank.

Frank, Handjani and Karv did not immediately return messages seeking comment on the litigation. In an email, the Quincy Institute said it “had nothing to do with the costume.”

Israeli private investigator Amit Forlit, whom Azima accuses of having “orchestrated the hacking and theft of private emails”, is also named as a defendant.

Forlit referred the questions to his attorney, who did not immediately return an email. Forlit previously told Reuters he innocently came across Azima’s leaked material online.

Azima’s lawsuit follows Reuters reporting on how Indian cybermercenaries are influencing legal battles in Europe and the United States.

In June, Reuters said Azima’s work exposing the industry was attracting interest from lawyers for other hacking victims, with potential ripple effects on both sides of the Atlantic.

(NOTE: This story has been updated to include comments from the Quincy Institute and correct title by Amir Handjani.)

The case is Farhad Azima v. Dechert LLP, US District Court for the Southern District of New York, 1:22-cv-08728.

For Azima: Calvin Lee and Kirby Behre, Miller & Chevalier

For Dechert: Unknown

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Report by Raphaël Satter

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