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American businessman settles hacking case in UK against law firm

A U.S. aviation executive who says he was targeted in a hack-and-leak smear campaign has reached a settlement in the United Kingdom with the law firm that allegedly facilitated the hacks.

The approximately $3.8 million settlement with the law firm Dechert concludes one part of a long-running legal battle, but litigation in the U.S. is ongoing.

The case of Farhad Azima, a Kansas City-based Iranian-American businessman, has provided a window into the shady world of the global hack-for-hire industry. In 2020, a British court ruled that he was liable for cheating an investment fund called RAKIA in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah Azima. Much of the evidence relied on material that Azima insisted could only have been accessed fraudulently.

That argument was bolstered when he was contacted by Reuters, which had analyzed a leaked database of emails accessed by Indian hackers and found material connected to Azima throughout. Azima’s legal team reportedly found more than 700 malicious emails in his inbox, as well as those of people connected to him.

According to bank records submitted by Azima’s team, a private investigator working for RAKIA’s law firm Dechert paid the hackers more than $1 million. Azima then filed a counterclaim against RAKIA in the U.K., adding both Dechert and the firm’s ex-partner Neil Gerrard to the claim.

His legal team contends Gerrard and the firm hired the Indian hacking companies CyberRoot and BellTroX to access the files and then to use the stolen information in disparaging posts online.

A Dechert spokesperson told media the law firm had settled "without any admission of liability in order to bring about a commercial resolution."

A spokesperson for Azima alleged in a statement that “Dechert and its partners played a leadership role in hacking Azima and others.”

“While this substantial payment resolves Azima’s limited claim in the UK, Azima will continue to pursue the significant claims he has brought against Dechert and others based on their conduct against him in the US and the damages they caused him there,” they said.

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James Reddick

James Reddick

has worked as a journalist around the world, including in Lebanon and in Cambodia, where he was Deputy Managing Editor of The Phnom Penh Post. He is also a radio and podcast producer for outlets like Snap Judgment.