Federal Judge Dismisses Kazakhstan Hacking Lawsuit

(CN) – A federal judge once again threw out Friday a lawsuit by authoritarian-led Kazakhstan in its repeated attempts to sue two former citizens who allegedly hacked the emails of state officials and published them in a newspaper critical of the government.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh dismissed Kazakhstan’s third amended complaint with prejudice, ruling that it failed to show that the Northern District of California had any jurisdiction.

Kazakhstan has filed several complaints in multiple states against defendants Muratbek Ketebaev and Ilyas Khrapunov, who live in Poland and Switzerland respectively.

The central Asian country claims the two men hired Israeli hackers to gain access to government emails which were later published in the Kazakh newspaper Respublika. The newspaper, which was forced to shutter, had focused its work on government corruption.

Kazakhstan, a former member of the Soviet bloc, has only had one president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, in nearly three decades.

In Koh’s 36-page ruling, she denied Kazakhstan’s motion to transfer the case to the Southern District of New York.

“Kazakhstan has failed to establish that this case, which involves a Kazakh citizen who resides in Switzerland allegedly hiring an Israeli firm to hack the email accounts of Kazakh government officials for publication in Kazakhstan, is connected to New York in any meaningful way,” Koh wrote.

The country had originally argued that the court had jurisdiction in California due to Google having its headquarters located in the state and the possible use of its cloud-based email service.

In a Dec. 21, 2017 ruling, Koh found that argument unconvincing.

“There is no allegation that Khrapunov believed the servers to be located in California, nor is there an allegation that the servers were actually located in California,” Koh wrote. “The mere fact that Google—the company that owns the servers—is headquartered in California is not enough to establish that Khrapunov, a Kazakh citizen who resides in Switzerland, expressly aimed his alleged conduct at California.”

The country is represented by William Murphy of Dillingham & Murphy in San Francisco.

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