Cisco guilty of 'perversion of justice' in attempt to jail VAR who dared to sue it

Integrator sued to get Cisco to share patches, updates with third parties

On May 20, 2010, serial entrepreneur and disgruntled Cisco solutions provider Peter Alfred-Adekeye – elegantly dressed and in command of both himself and the lawsuit he'd lodged against Cisco for what he called anti-competitive practices – walked into a posh Vancouver hotel conference room for a deposition.

He walked out as a prisoner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Without Alfred-Adekeye knowledge, Cisco had responded to his lawsuit by charging him with criminal computer trespass, data theft and fraud for what it told the RCMP was a flat-out hack of its systems by Alfred-Adekey, who allegedly downloaded valuable, proprietary software, instruction guides and other material Cisco made available to customers, but not to third-party service companies such as Alfred-Adekeye's.

A video of the deposition shows Alfred-Adekeye, dressed like a man taking a valued client to lunch and seated at a table ready to do business, being arrested and, eventually, off-camera, perp-walked through the lobby of the hotel and into what would be more than a year of legal fights and nervous waiting as Canadian courts and the U.S. Justice Department argued whether Alfred-Adekeye should be returned to the U.S. to be tried for hacking Cisco.

DoJ charged that Alfred-Adekeye, in the process of working on a client's network, used a Cisco employee's user ID and passwords to access content and download software on restricted Cisco websites.

That refusal was the point of the suit; by refusing to give many third-party service companies the software updates, bug fixes, instructional material and other resources, it was preventing anyone but Cisco from competing for the lucrative market for servicing Cisco gear and networks.

The Nigerian-born Alfred-Adekeye, who lives in Zurich, has been in Canada ever since, forbidden to leave the country until Canadian courts come to a decision about whether or not to approve requests from the U.S. Justice Department to extradite him to the U.S.

Alfred-Adekeye's No. 2 at his VAR, Multiven, said the arrest and attempted prosecution were attempts to intimidate Multiven into dropping its suit against the networking giant.

Cisco denied it, but settled the case, anyway – 11 months ago.

It did not drop the charges against Alfred-Adekeye.

Last month a Canadian judge slammed Cisco for that, agreeing with Alfred-Adekeye's assertion that the charges were untrue and that Cisco had him prosecuted only to get him to drop the anti-trust case.

He refused to let Canadian authorities deport Alfred-Adekeye for prosecution.

"This speaks volumes for Cisco's duplicity," according to June 3 decision from Justice Ronald McKinnon, who called Cisco's attempt to subvert the legal process "unmitigated gall."

McKinnon said little of the evidence or accusations sent to the RCMP by U.S. authorities was true. The accusations amounted to "innuendo, half truths, and complete falsehoods," he said.

That alone would have made him turn down the request for deportation.

Cisco's imprecision made it worse.

Estimating the value of software and data supposedly taken by Alfred-Adekeye at "more than $14,000" was so imprecise as to be useless. It could have meant $15,000 or $1 million.

Cisco's position was that both numbers meant a substantial theft; The judge said not being able to pin down a specific dollar value made accusations sound more rhetorical than factual.

The RCMP's treatment of Alfred-Adekeye – who stayed in jail 28 days until a different judge allowed him out on bail – was about 27 days longer than the mounties would keep any other defendant with no criminal record little risk that he'd skip the country if released.

Justice McKinnon called the whole procedure a perversion of justice.

What else would you call an attempt to twist a VAR's attempt to fix a client's system using the client's ability to download patches and code into a "sinister" act that justified prosecution under 97 charges of computer hacking that, laid end to end, could mean more than 500 years of prison time.

You'd call it "unmitigated gall," as the judge did.

Then you'd send the defendant home (he's back in Europe now according to his lawyer), and hope the karmic backlash on Cisco was serious enough to make Smiling John Chambers see the error of his ways.

You probably wouldn't root for Cisco to lay off 6,500 employees who also didn't do anything wrong in the Alfred-Adekeye case, because the layoffs hurt them not Smiling John.

But it would look an awful lot like smiting for the sins of the fathers, or something equally portentous and morally offensive like, say, trying to send a man to jail for daring to challenge the unfair policies of a giant company that thought its power was so great it could ignore the rules and just punish directly those who displeased it.

Not so, apparently, at least in Canada.

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