Is Cisco prosecution of VAR 'hacker' really persecution of a competitor?

Defendant in hacking case sued Cisco over 'anti-competitive' restrictions on third parties

Everyone gets mad at an employer once in a while. Some even go out of their way to take revenge.

Most don't sue the employer for anti-competitive practices, then break into its systems. Not 97 times. Of course, Peter Alfred-Adekeye may not have, either, according to his lawyer.

He may just have gotten on the wrong side of Smiling John Chambers, the affable but ruthlessly effective CEO of Cisco Systems, for which Alfred-Adekeye worked and against which he fought in an effort to get as much support for his third-party network-support companies as Cisco offered its regular customers.

According to Canadian court records the Nigerian-born Alfred-Adekeye, who lives in Zurich, left Cisco in 2005. He launched his own networking-services business called Multiven, launched two nonprofit groups promoting entrepreneurship -- The Road to Entrepreneurial Leadership and the African Network.

He sued Cisco in 2008 claiming it monopolized the market for service of its hardware, limiting the ability of companies like his to get service contracts by offering software updates, bug fixes and other resources only to its SMARTnet service-contract customers, not third-party service companies.

Cisco countersued Alfred-Adekeye and Pingsta -- another company he founded. The wrangling continued until May of 2010, when Alfred-Adekeye flew in to Vancouver for a deposition at Vancouver's Wedgewood Hotel.

He was arrested by the Royal lCanadian Mounted Police, on a warrant issued by the U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

He was charged with 97 counts hacking into Cisco's systems for commercial advantage, using a Cisco employee's user ID and password to download software and access restricted Cisco sites, according to the warrants.

He stayed in jail for a month before being released on bail, on condition he remain in Canada, where he's been ever since.

The arrest was reported only this week, when the Vancouver Sun heard about it at an extradition hearing to decide whether Alfred-Adekeye should be sent to the U.S. for prosecution.

Alfred-Adekeye's lawyer accuses Cisco and the U.S. of giving false information to the Canadian government to get an emergency extradition order approved and that the whole set of charges is an "aggressive" litigation strategy by Cisco.

She called the hacking charges a "minor matter" that originated over a $14,000 business dispute that was blown out of proportion by Cisco and the U.S.

"Canada was misled; the courts were misled," the Sun reported lawyer Marilyn Sandford telling the judge.

"Almost nothing in the U.S. Attorney's letter [requesting extradition] was true," she said.

Two months after Alfred-Adekeye was arrested, Cisco settled the lawsuit with both his companies. Both sides dropped their charges and paid their own legal costs.

Cisco also dropped the restrictive policies on SMARTnet software updates.

It didn't drop the charges against Alfred-Adekeye, despite his lawyer's assertion that using a former colleague's ID to download patches and other routine data is a trivial annoyance, not a criminal offense.

Alfred-Adekeye faces a 10-year prison term and $250,000 in fines in the U.S. if convicted.

Canadian and U.S. officials will get a chance to respond in court today after the defense finishes its case on the extradition.

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