Judge Orders Quincy Institute Fellow To Turn Over Documents in Alleged Hack-and-Leak Scheme 

Amir Handjani in hot water over his role as top adviser to repressive Gulf monarch

Amir Handjani
Amir Handjani / RAK Petroleum
July 26, 2022

A federal court has ordered a Quincy Institute fellow and Atlantic Council donor to turn over records relating to his potential role in an alleged hack-and-leak operation that targeted an American businessman.

Amir Handjani, a vocal media advocate for the Iran nuclear deal, has been ordered to produce documents and communications related to the alleged hacking victim, Farhad Azima, as well as documents related to entities involved in the attack, including Ras al-Khaimah, a kingdom in the United Arab Emirates. Handjani served as a top adviser to the kingdom's authoritarian ruler, Sheikh Saud bin Saqr al Qasimi.

The order, issued on July 15 by a U.S. Southern District of New York judge, could bring to light new details about the alleged international spy-for-hire plot, which the lawsuit claims was carried out on behalf of Handjani's boss.

The ruling comes three years after a lawyer for Ras al-Khaimah's investment fund, Dechert's Andrew Levander, threatened to sue the Washington Free Beacon for defamation over its coverage of Handjani's role as an adviser to the kingdom's ruler. A British judge in May found "shocking" malpractice at the firm as part of an unrelated case.

Handjani has been fighting requests to produce his records for over a year as part of a lawsuit brought against him by Azima, who is seeking the records for a counterclaim in an ongoing British civil case.

In court filings, Azima claims that private hackers working for Ras al-Khaimah in 2016 illegally obtained his emails and other records and leaked them to the public. He alleges that Handjani and the law firm Dechert, which served as advisers to Ras al-Khaimah, helped oversee the operation.

Handjani has denied any involvement in the hacking. But court records show he was included on email correspondence with other kingdom advisers about targeting Azima and discussions about the hacked documents.

A British private investigator hired by Ras al-Khaimah told the court earlier this year that Handjani personally "instructed" him to investigate a Jordanian businessman who in 2020 accused the kingdom of kidnapping and torture. The private eye said he later enlisted an Israeli hacker to handle the case.

Handjani is still listed as a nonresident fellow at the Quincy Institute, a non-interventionist think tank staffed by Iranian regime supporters and anti-Israel activists. The Atlantic Council said Handjani left the group's board last year. His last disclosed contribution to the think tank was between $50,000 and $99,999 in 2020.

Update July 27, 2022 3:11 p.m.: A previous version of this article stated that Handjani remains a donor to the Atlantic Council. Handjani is no longer a donor to the organization.