U.S. Businessman Says Hacker-for-Hire Firms Stole His Data

Farhad Azima

Photographer: Jill Toyoshiba/The Kansas City Star via AP

A years-long legal dispute between an Iranian-American businessman and the Investment Authority of Ras Al Khaimah, one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates, has now entangled a private investigator in North Carolina and two hacking-for-hire firms in India.

In a lawsuit filed last week in federal court in North Carolina, Farhad Azima, an Iranian aviation executive who lives and works in America, accused law firm Dechert LLP of hiring a private investigator, Nicholas Del Rosso, who then allegedly hired hackers in India to steal documents from Azima. Nicholas Del Rosso and his company Vital Management Services Inc. are named as defendants in the suit. Dechert LLP isn’t a named party in the suit. Azima is seeking monetary damages and an injunction against further hacking.

The suit comes after reporting by Bloomberg and Reuters earlier this year that showed an Indian company, Belltrox Infotech Services, had for years worked as a “hacking-for-hire” service, targeting more than 10,000 people and companies. The suit filed by Azima last week is the first to mention Belltrox in U.S. courts.

Read More: U.S. Investigating Vast Hacker-for-Hire Scheme Traced to India

The lawsuit claims that Indian “hacking-for-hire” firms CyberRoot Risk Advisory Private Ltd. and Belltrox worked together to hack and publish Azima’s stolen data as part of an ongoing legal dispute between Azima and the investment authority over the sale of a hotel in Tbilisi, Georgia. In May, a U.K. court found that Azima hadn’t sufficiently proven the Investment Authority of Ras Al Khaimah was responsible for the hacking. Azima was allowed to appeal that ruling, which will be heard in March 2021.

Dechert LLP didn’t respond to a request for comment. A lawyer for Del Rosso declined to comment. CyberRoot and Belltrox didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bloomberg reported earlier this year that Belltrox is under investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan. Belltrox has allegedly attempted to hack climate activists, hedge fund employees and journalists on behalf of its clients, Bloomberg previously reported. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan declined to comment.

In July, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Willam Barr expressing his concern about potential “political pressure” in the investigation of Belltrox. According to the lawsuit, CyberRoot used Belltrox’s servers to carry out hacks on Azima and assisted in publishing the stolen data online.

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