The High Court in London was told that the UAE had hacked into the computer of an American businessman in a legal case over alleged fraud and “serial wrongdoing”. Details of the hacking was presented in a legal submission by Farhad Azima against his former business partners in Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority (RAKIA), the sovereign wealth fund of Ras Al Khaimah, one of the seven emirates of the UAE.
“At the heart of these proceedings is a prolonged illegal computer hacking on Mr Azima’s emails and data,” Azima’s submissions claimed, according to the Financial Times. “There is no dispute that in bringing this case RAKIA seeks to rely on a huge quantity of confidential . . . documents and data that was stolen from Mr Azima. Mr Azima contends it was stolen by RAKIA,” the written arguments claimed, adding that by 2015 RAKIA “began investigating and monitoring Mr Azima using various shadowy agents”.
“RAKIA then unleashed a campaign against Mr Azima through the issuing of this claim, accompanied by the hacking attack and a storm of critical publicity,” Azima’s written arguments added.
RAKIA, which is suing Azima for £3.7 million ($4.8 million), alleges fraudulent misrepresentation and breach of contract relating to joint business ventures dismissed the allegations. Hugh Tomlinson QC told the court that the rulers of Ras Al Khaimah were not responsible for the hacking of Azima’s emails.
“RAKIA does not know who hacked Mr Azmira’s emails . . . this is not a situation where RAKIA was the only suspect — he [Mr Azima] had more than one enemy,” Tomlinson told the court.
According to the FT, Tomlinson claimed that Azima “had been engaged in serial wrongdoing over a prolonged period”.
While this is an ongoing case, it brings to light the vast scale of alleged snooping by the Gulf monarchs. Earlier this week it was discovered that Saudi Arabia had hacked the phone of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos.
United Nations’ officials have said that they found credible forensic report commissioned by Bezos’ security team which concluded that his phone probably had been hacked with a tainted video sent from a WhatsApp account belonging to Saudi’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
While the Saudis have dismissed the allegation, the dispute threatens to inflame what is already a damaged relationship between the crown prince and Bezos, an American billionaire who owns the Washington Post newspaper.
For observers of the region such cases of hacking will not have come as a surprise. Working side by side with Israel, the UAE and Saudi have widened their snooping capabilities. Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was one of the many victims of this campaign.
The UAE in particular, having demonstrated a ruthless streak in clamping down on political dissent, has cast a wide net of potential enemies. It was discovered last month that the UN itself, along with FIFA, fell foul of its spy programme which was developed by the Americans.