Five civil servants suspended over "DNA espionage'

Five civil servants suspended over "DNA espionage'
Five civil servants suspended over "DNA espionage''/ 


Five civil servants who help run the national DNA database have been 
suspended after being accused of industrial espionage.

It is alleged they copied confidential information and used it to set up 
a rival database in competition with their employers, the Government's 
Forensic Science Service.

The FSS - which is suing the five men in the High Court - helps police 
investigate evidence from crimes and sells its services to commercial 

It also maintains the controversial database containing DNA samples of 
almost four million people, the largest in the world.

The men, all from the Birmingham area, are named on the writ as Azim 
Akhtar, his brother Zaheer Akhtar, Sultan Mahmood, Nisar Ahmed, and 
Athar Agha.

It is alleged they set up a company and planned to compete against the 
FSS by providing similar services.

The case will inevitably raise concerns about the vulnerability of 
genetic data, especially since the FSS was turned into a 
Government-owned company in 2005 as the first stage of privatisation.

At the time Tony Blair faced a barrage of protest, with one Labour MP 
denouncing the scheme as 'a criminal's charter'.

Civil rights groups have also been critical, arguing there are no real 
safeguards to prevent misuse of the DNA database.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said the case involving the five 
men raised serious concerns.

"This is hugely significant and should make every law-abiding person 
seriously worried. People are looking after these databases who have 
less and less of a public-service ethic,' she said.

According to the High Court writ, the FSS began developing a website in 
2005 called targeting international law enforcement and 
private markets.

It says although the plans were secret, they were known to the five 
defendants who had access to the DNA database. The writ alleges the men 
set up their own company, Iforensic Ltd - having appropriated the name 
from the FSS.

"In order to facilitate the creation of a DNA database to be operated by 
Iforensic Limited...the defendants copied, retained and/or adapted 
software and/or other confidential information' belonging to the FSS, 
says the writ.

The document adds it would not have been possible for the five men to 
create the software necessary to produce a DNA database without having 
had access to 'and copying and/or retaining copies of the software 
and/or the database.'

IT specialist Azim Akhtar, 30, is alleged to have registered three 
internet domain names using the word Iforensic - and later, through a 
friend, tried to sell one of the names back to the FSS for 'an 
attractive price'.

He and the four others worked in the FSS's Birmingham headquarters in 
the information systems division, which is responsible for developing 
and maintaining the DNA database.

The FSS is seeking damages for infringement of copyright, breach of 
trust, breach of confidence and misuse of confidential information.

It is also seeking injunctions to make the five change their company's 
name, return confidential information and transfer internet domain names 
to the service.

According to the writ, the five set up Iforensic Ltd on September 29, 
2006, to unlawfully exploit 'goodwill in the name' by extracting money 
from the FSS for the sale of the company name at an inflated price.

They chose the name with a dishonest motive, to use it as an 'instrument 
of fraud', it is alleged.

It adds they set up Iforensic Ltd to compete with the FSS to provide 
forensic goods services and products, including national DNA database 

Mr Akhtar, from Yardley, Birmingham, said: "We have never been accused 
of taking personal information about individuals from the DNA database.

"What we are accused of is taking the database itself, not the 

He added it was never the intention to set up a firm to rival the FSS or 
the DNA database.

Mr Akhtar went on: "The FSS said if we have registered the domain names 
using the iforensic word then we must be going to do the same business 
as them and thus must have taken the database system."

He added the FSS was making IT redundancies and 'we plan to set up a 
company to offer the services the FSS will be looking to outsource."

The FSS said it could not comment because of the investigation. The Home 
Office insisted there was no question information held on the database 
had been 'compromised'.

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