A Middle Eastern hacking claim involving City firm Dechert has been remitted for retrial by the Court of Appeal in the light of fresh evidence. The case was dismissed by the High Court last year.
In RAKIA v Azima, airline tycoon Farhad Azima claimed that his emails had been hacked and published on the dark web by RAKIA, the sovereign investment fund of the UAE’s northernmost emirate.
Retired Dechert partner Neil Gerrard, who acted for RAKIA, was named in the hacking claim and accused of threatening Azima days before his personal information was published online.
Azima’s assertion formed part of a counter-claim and defence to allegations of fraud brought by the emirate. In 2020, the High Court found that Azima had committed fraudulent misrepresentation and bribery, and that he had concealed the dishonest misappropriation of funds.
The High Court also dismissed the hacking claim and ruled that there was not ‘sufficiently cogent evidence’ to establish a conspiracy between the RAKIA witnesses, including Gerrard.
The Court of Appeal has now remitted Azima’s counter-claim in the light of new evidence. However, it refused to decide whether RAKIA was responsible for the hacking and said the 2020 judgment in RAKIA's favour on its claims must stand irrespective of the outcome of the counter-claim.
‘In our judgment the fact that there are at least two mutually inconsistent accounts of how the hacking came about means that it is not safe to reach any conclusion without a re-evaluation of the evidence,’ the court said. ‘The new case will have to be pleaded and proved in the usual way.’
The court said it was ‘narrowly persuaded’ that remission of the hacking claim would be ‘more expeditious and less costly’ than leaving Azima to begin a fresh action. Azima’s barrister suggested that Gerrard, together with other witnesses, would have to be recalled. Gerrard gave evidence to the High Court in January during a four-week hearing.
A spokesperson for RAKIA said: ‘As a result of the “radical change” in Mr Azima’s hacking case on appeal, the Court of Appeal has directed that those claims be remitted to the High Court. RAKIA will continue to defend those claims and maintains that the trial judge was correct to find that RAKIA was not responsible for the hacking or for the posting of Mr Azima's data.’
A spokesperson for Azima said: ‘Mr Azima continues to investigate the hacking and to pursue the full range of legal options available to him in both the UK and the US. He is looking forward to the retrial in London and will not rest until those who have illegally hacked him are brought to justice.’