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Dechert lawyers cite ‘iniquitous purpose’ in hacking case | News | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker

International firm Dechert has been accused of gaming the rules of legal professional privilege in long running litigation concerning its work in the Middle East. An email referred to in court today suggests the firm hired an ex-detective who is suspected of hacking so that disclosure of his activities would be protected by legal professional privilege. Lawyers representing an airline tycoon whom the private investigator is said to have hacked have said the email ‘raises a real concern that the privilege was used to cloak wrongdoing’.

The accusations were discussed in the High Court today in the latest twist in litigation arising from Dechert’s work on behalf of the Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority in the UAE. Dechert is said to have hired Nick Del Rosso from 2014-2020 to investigate several individuals, including airline tycoon firm Farhad Azima, who faced fraud claims upheld by a 2020 ruling. 

Azima this year won the right to argue that a ‘contrived and dishonest case’ had been made by RAKIA in proceedings concerning a ‘perjury school’ allegedly run by Neil Gerrard, a former partner at Dechert.

Laywers for Azima say Dechert conducted due diligence on private investigator Del Rosso’s company Vital Management Services.

In a witness statement, Dominic Holden, partner at Burlingtons Legal LLP which is representing Azima, said Dechert learned Vital had previously faced allegations that it had hacked an opponent as part of a civil dispute. 

‘Despite this, Dechert continued to work with Mr Del Rosso/Vital (and Mr Gerrard and others met with Mr Del Rosso on at least one occasion in Dechert’s London office).’ Holden said the meeting was in relation to their investigation of Azima and Dr Khater Massaad, a former senior Ras Al Khaimah government official. An initial analysis suggested that Del Rosso/Vital billed Dechert £5,500,000 between 2014-2020, he said. 

Del Rosso’s work included ‘unlawful surveillance or hacking’ and there was ‘prima facie evidence’ he had used his laptop for wrongdoing, Holden said.

Azima’s lawyers were seeking to prevent the delivery up of a laptop computer to Del Rosso as they said it would not be in his interests to disclose documents revealing the ‘serious wrongdoing’ alleged.

In an email disclosed by Dechert, Gerrard is said to have explained that the firm instructed Del Rosso ‘so as to attempt to cover any work product under legal professional privilege’.

Holden said: ‘In view of what is now known about the nature of the work done, this raises a real concern that the privilege was used to cloak wrongdoing.’

But Enyo Law, which is representing Dechert, said it had identified ‘two potential iniquitous purposes’ which may justify the ‘iniquity exception’ to lawyer client privilege. Those were ‘obtaining information unlawfully, including the hacking of email accounts and computer data’; and ‘misleading Mr Azima and/or the court’ as to the involvement of RAKIA and/or its agents in the alleged hacking of Azima’s email accounts and computer data.

Adrian Waterman KC, for Del Rosso, said his client was in the United States and they would need time to take instructions on Holden’s statement.

‘The allegations against Mr Del Rosso have reached a new level, qualitatively as well as quantitatively,’ Waterman said. ‘There are serious matters there we need to deal with’.

Dechert denies the hacking claim amd Gerrard has previously denied any wrongdoing. 

Mr Justice Michael Green adjourned the case until 31 July.


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