November 30, 2023

US court sentenced an Israeli private detective to six years and nine months for global hacking campaigns against thousands of people including climate change activists and critics of German company Wirecard. Aviram Azari, a former policeman detained in the United States, pleaded guilty last year to wire fraud, conspiracy to commit hacking and aggravated identity theft. US District Judge John Koeltl handed down the sentence at a hearing in federal court in Manhattan.

Prosecutors had asked for Azari, 51, to get eight to nine years in prison, saying that his firm earned nearly $5 million over five years for managing hacking campaigns that targeted thousands of victims. His defense lawyer asked for a sentence of no more than five years, arguing that Azari had accepted responsibility and contracted a “debilitating medical condition” while jailed in New York. Prosecutors said that now-defunct Wirecard hired Azari to target individuals and financial firms that had criticized the company.

According to prosecutors, Azari also used hackers to steal emails from climate activists who were campaigning against US oil company Exxon Mobil Corp. Prosecutors did not allege any link between Azari and Exxon, which denied any connection to Azari or his hacking campaign. Azari was the subject of an investigation last year by Reuters that revealed how he and other private eyes used mercenary hackers in India to help wealthy clients gain an advantage in court battles.