A secretive Indian hacking group was hired to steal emails used to win a lawsuit against an Iranian-American aviation tycoon, a former colleague said in legal papers filed in the UK.
The tycoon, Farhad Azima, is suing the Dechert law firm over allegations that one of its London-based partners – Neil Gerrard, who has since retired – organised the theft of his emails and leaked them to the web ahead of a British lawsuit filed in 2016.
An affidavit by British private investigator Stuart Page has offered support for Azima’s case, alleging that Gerrard helped concoct a bogus story that explained how he obtained the emails.
Dechert declined to comment, while representatives for Gerrard, who had previously denied wrongdoing, did not return emails and lawyers for Page did not respond to messages.
Page’s affidavit could open a new window into how hackers are used to win high stakes litigation. A Reuters investigation has previously revealed the existence of a group of India-based hackers to hack parties involved in lawsuits.
The Delhi-based BellTroX InfoTech Services offered its hacking services to help clients spy on more than 10,000 email accounts over a period of seven years.
Long List of Targets
BellTroX targeted government officials in Europe, gambling tycoons in the Bahamas, and well-known investors in the US, including private equity giant KKR and short seller Muddy Waters, according to three former employees, outside researchers, and a trail of online evidence.
Azima was also among the hackers’ targets. In 2016, Azima was sued by one of Dechert’s clients, the Emirates-based Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority (RAKIA.)
The British judge who tried that case in 2020 found that the leaked emails showed Azima had engaged in “seriously fraudulent conduct” in his dealings with RAKIA and ordered him to pay $4.2 million in compensation to the fund.
Azima has fought to throw the ruling out on the grounds that the emails were stolen by the opposing party. He was recently granted a retrial in Britain, which is due to begin next year.
- Reuters with additional editing by George Russell