Updated May 3rd, 2024 at 07:26 IST

Israeli private investigator arrested in London over alleged hacking for US firm

The initial extradition attempt for Amit Forlit to the United States was dismissed by a judge at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Thursday.

Reported by: Business Desk
Representative | Image:Unsplash
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An Israeli private investigator, sought by the United States, was apprehended in London under suspicion of orchestrating a cyberespionage campaign on behalf of an undisclosed American public relations firm, a London court disclosed on Thursday.

However, an initial extradition attempt for Amit Forlit to the United States was dismissed by a judge at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Thursday, citing a legal technicality.

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Amy Labram, representing the United States, informed the court that Forlit "is accused of engaging in a hack for hire scheme."

Labram detailed that the US allegations involve an unnamed Washington-based PR and lobbying firm compensating one of Forlit's companies with £16 million ($20 million) "to gather intelligence relating to the Argentinian debt crisis."

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Neither Forlit nor his legal counsel responded immediately to requests for comment.

Forlit was detained under an Interpol red notice at London's Heathrow Airport as he attempted to board a flight to Israel, as per US authorities. The timing of Forlit's arrest remains undisclosed.

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Forlit faces three charges in the US: one count of conspiracy to commit computer hacking, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and one count of wire fraud.

A judge ruled that the US extradition proceedings for Forlit could not proceed due to failure to produce him in court within the required timeframe under British extradition law.

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"He was not produced at court as soon as practicable and the consequences of that ... he must – I have no discretion – he must be discharged," Judge Michael Snow ruled.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) declined to provide a comment.

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Separately, Forlit has been accused of computer hacking in New York by aviation executive Farhad Azima. Azima, whose emails were stolen and used against him in a 2020 trial in London, is suing Forlit and others in federal court in Manhattan.

Forlit has previously admitted to retrieving Azima's emails but has denied hacking, claiming he stumbled upon the messages "innocently on the web."

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(With Reuters inputs)

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Published May 3rd, 2024 at 07:26 IST