Israeli private detective used Indian hackers in job for Russian oligarchs – court filings

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The Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC), operated by the US Federal Bureau of Prisons, is pictured in Brooklyn, New York, USA on December 8, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

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WASHINGTON, May 27 (Reuters) – An Israeli private investigator currently in US custody has used Indian hackers to conduct surveillance operations on ultra-rich Russians, a reporter said in a court filing late Wednesday.

Independent journalist Scott Stedman told a New York court that jailed private investigator Aviram Azari had worked “on behalf of Russian oligarchs on surveillance and cyber-intelligence operations,” citing a mix of public reporting and confidential sources.

Stedman said in a statement that one of the Russian oligarchs involved was aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska, who indirectly employed Azari in connection with a business dispute in Austria.

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Deripaska’s spokeswoman said in an email that the allegations were “manifestly false”. A lawyer for Azari, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit hacking and aggravated identity theft in a separate case last month, did not respond to messages.

Stedman made his statement in support of his request to have Azari subpoenaed for evidence to combat a British defamation lawsuit brought against him in 2020 by British-Israeli security adviser Walter Soriano.

In a series of articles for his publication Forensic News, Stedman claimed, among other things, that Soriano was a middleman between wealthy Russians and surveillance firms.

Soriano denied the allegations and sued Stedman for launching a campaign of defamation, invasion of privacy and harassment.

Stedman’s attorney told the New York court that “several confidential sources” told the reporter that Azari had “worked closely with Soriano for years,” and therefore the statements and documents from the jailed private investigator could “corroborate the truth of Forensic News’ reporting.”

In an email to Reuters, Soriano’s lawyer, Shlomo Rechtschaffen, said Stedman’s claims were “false and unfounded” and that the reporter had “no evidence” that his client and Azari worked together as alleged.

In a statement to Reuters, Stedman said he had “very good reason to believe that Mr. Azari worked with Mr. Soriano on cyber-related projects for several Russian oligarchs and other billionaires” and that he would subpoena Azari as part of an effort. to defend my journalism and my business.”

Azari is currently being held in federal prison in Brooklyn awaiting sentencing in connection with a hacking campaign linked to defunct German financial technology company Wirecard AG, his attorney said last month. Continue reading

Reuters reported last year that Azari was accused of hiring Indian hacking firm BellTroX on behalf of powerful clients. BellTroX, which has also been accused of hacking by cybersecurity researchers at Facebook and elsewhere, could not be reached for comment. Continue reading

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Reporting by Raphael Satter; Edited by Daniel Wallis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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