Dechert’s FBI Meetings Open New Front in Hacking Allegations | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker

Dechert meetings with the FBI have opened a new path for a Missouri aviation executive to attack the law firm for allegedly taking part in a hacking scheme against him.

Farhad Azima on May 10 asked the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas to compel the FBI to fully comply with a subpoena request for documents regarding Dechert’s communications with the bureau. The FBI has refused to adequately respond to the request, according to the court filing.

Paul Zukas, a Houston-based FBI agent, met several times with former top Dechert partner Neil Gerrard about an Azima investigation, Zukas told Azima’s attorneys in a March deposition, the filing said.

The allegations add to the years-long battle between Azima and Dechert, an international law firm that he claims spearheaded a hack-and-dump scheme against him on behalf of its client, Ras al Khaimah, a territory within the United Arab Emirates.

Azima in a New York lawsuit filed in 2022 accuses Dechert and Ras al Khaimah of conspiring to hack into his private documents because of his efforts to publicize the emirate’s human rights abuses. He has claimed Dechert also led an effort to cover up the cyberbreach.

Dechert has denied the hacking allegations. A New York federal judge is weighing the law firm’s motion to dismiss Azima’s case.

The law firm and FBI did not immediately return a request for comment.

FBI Investigation

Zukas told Azima’s lawyers in the deposition that the FBI began investigating Azima after getting information from Richard Garcia, a former FBI agent who is alleged to have played a part in the hacking scheme. Zukas said in the deposition that he first met with Garcia in 2016.

Zukas also said he met several times with Chris Swecker, another former FBI agent who worked with Dechert, and “Dechert folks,” including London partner Gerrard, to discuss matters relevant to the Azima case. The investigation lasted until 2020 and ended without any charges, according to the filing. Gerrard retired from Dechert in 2020.

Garcia could not be immediately reached. Counsel for Gerrard and Swecker did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The UAE territory hired Gerrard in 2013 to assist an investigation into the former CEO of its investment fund. That investigation is alleged to have later entangled Azima, according to his lawsuit.

In addition to Azima’s pending lawsuit against Dechert, he is also pursuing an action in North Carolina against Nicholas Del Rosso, a private investigator he claims directed a hack of him after being hired by Gerrard. That case is scheduled for trial in North Carolina in September. Dechert is not a named defendant in that dispute.

The case is Azima v. Williams, Jr., as Special Agent in Charge et al, S.D. Tex., 4:24-mc-00772, 5/10/24


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