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Retrial of Hacking Claim Ordered By the Court Of Appeal Against Ras Al Khaimah Sovereign Wealth Fund

8 April 2021

On Friday, 12th March 2021, the Court of Appeal ordered a retrial of a complaint of hacking made by Mr Farhad Azima (represented by Burlingtons Legal LLP) against the Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority (“RAKIA”) (the investment arm of Ras Al Khaimah (“RAK”), one of the seven emirates of the UAE).

Mr Azima is a businessman in the aviation industry who had business dealings with RAK and its agencies, including RAKIA. In 2016, an enormous quantity of Mr Azima’s private emails and data (which had been obtained through hacking) were published on the internet.  Within weeks of publication, RAKIA brought claims against Mr Azima relying on the hacked data.

As well as defending the claims on their merits, Mr Azima claimed that the materials were hacked at RAKIA’s instruction and brought a counterclaim for the losses arising from the hacking and dissemination of his data. RAKIA denied the hacking and claimed to have innocently discovered the materials on the internet.

Following a four-week trial in January / February 2020, Deputy Judge Andrew Lenon QC upheld RAKIA’s claims and dismissed Mr. Azima’s Counterclaim.  This was despite the Deputy Judge finding that the Ruler of RAK was hostile to Mr Azima (having ordered him to be “targeted” and “gone after”) and that RAKIA’s case as to how they had discovered the hacked materials on the internet was untrue.

Mr Azima subsequently appealed and sought permission to rely on new evidence to support his hacking claim which included hundreds of malicious ‘phishing’ emails sent to Mr Azima and various associates. The emails had been identified following a tip off from Thomson Reuters during a major investigation into ‘hack for hire’ firms. Additional evidence indicated that an agent of RAKIA’s had made substantial payments to an Indian cyber security firm (alleged to be a ‘hack for hire’ operation) to carry out the hacking of Mr Azima’s emails for RAKIA. 

The hacking issue has been remitted for a re-trial in the High Court before a different judge.

The Judgments of the Court of Appeal and of the High Court are available here.

Dominic Holden of Burlingtons Legal LLP, Tim Lord QC, Thomas Plewman QC and Hugo Leith of Brick Court Chambers represented Mr Farhad Azima.

If you would like to discuss any of the matters covered in this article, please contact Dominic Holden or write to us using the contact form below.

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