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Israeli Private Eye Arrested In UK Over Alleged Hacking For US PR Firm

FILE PHOTO: A view shows the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) headquarters in Lyon, REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/File Photo

An Israeli private investigator Amit Forlit has been arrested in London over allegations that he spied for a Washington-based lobbying and PR firm. The US has asked for Forlit to be extradited, but this request has been refused by a judge at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday.

Forlit was arrested at London’s Heathrow Airport when he was trying to board a flight to Israel, has been accused by the US government on three charges. He is wanted on one count of conspiracy to commit computer hacking, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and one count of wire fraud.

Amy Labram, a lawyer representing the United States, told the court that Forlit “is accused of engaging in a hack-for-hire scheme.” She said that the U.S. allegations include that an unnamed Washington-based PR and lobbying firm paid one of Forlit’s companies 16 million pounds ($20 million) “to gather intelligence relating to the Argentinian debt crisis.”

According to a Reuters report, the country’s total sovereign debt exceeds $400 billion, some $110 billion of which is owed to the International Monetary Fund and to holders of restructured, privately-held eurobonds.

A judge ruled that the attempt to extradite Forlit by the United States could not continue as he was not produced in court within the timeframe required under British extradition law.

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“He was not produced at court as soon as practicable and the consequences of that … he must – I have no discretion – he must be discharged,” Judge Michael Snow ruled.

Forlit has separately been accused of computer hacking in New York by aviation executive Farhad Azima. Azima, whose emails were stolen and used against him in a 2020 trial in London, is suing Forlit and others in federal court in Manhattan. He has previously acknowledged retrieving Azima’s emails but has denied hacking, telling Reuters he “innocently” stumbled across the messages “on the web.”

Forlit and his lawyer did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

(With inputs from Reuters)