The former Cisco engineer turned channel entrepreneur has been tied up in legal battles for years with his former employer and the U.S. government. Now, he faces a new round of court challenges following his indictment on hacking charges. What makes Alfred-Adekeye the most prosecuted man in the channel?
Peter Alfred-Adekeye is arguably the most prosecuted man in the channel. Despite a Canadian court finding to the contrary, U.S. prosecutors are not letting up on pursuing charges against the Nigerian-born computer engineer who challenged Cisco’s exclusion of partners from maintenance services.
[caption id="attachment_2835" align="alignleft" width="155" caption="Peter Alfred-Adekeye, CEO of Multiven, is facing new charges that he hacked Cisco to steal trade secrets. It's the latest in the long-running legal challenges for the Cisco engineer turned entrepreneur. "][/caption]
U.S. federal prosecutors last week indicted Alfred-Adekeye on charges stemming from a 2006 alleged hacking of Cisco’s partner portal, in which he is accused of stealing intellectual property and trade secrets that would benefit his business, Multiven, a Cisco solution provider based in Palo Alto, Calif.
The indictment comes just two months after a Canadian court cleared Alfred-Adekeye and chastised Cisco and U.S. prosecutors for drumming up charges and conspiring to deceive Canadian authorities into arresting and extraditing Alfred-Adekeye to the United States.
Alfred-Adekeye spent more than a year sequestered in Canada fighting the extradition. He was unable to leave the country while the Canadian superior court sorted out the details of the case ultimately deemed “shocking” for its ignorance of the facts and appearance of collusion between Cisco and U.S. prosecutors. The Canadian judge handling the case, Justice Ronald McKinnon, dismissed the U.S. request for extradition in May.
“It would appear Cisco representatives were very much complicit with U.S. justice authorities to utilize the criminal process to put as much pressure on Mr. Adekeye as they possibly could,” Justice McKinnon wrote in his decision.
Various published reports on Alfred-Adekeye’s indictment indicate the charges are related to the original filing in the matter that was adjudicated in Canada.
What did Alfred-Adekeye do that was so bad? Challenge Cisco, he contends.
Alfred-Adekeye was born in Nigeria. He immigrated to the United Kingdom and earned a degree in engineering. He was hired by Cisco and held several positions in the U.K. and the United States. Like many engineers in Silicon Valley, he left Cisco in the early 2000s to pursue an opportunity providing support services to Cisco customers – a classic channel partner.
What Alfred-Adekeye did, though, was challenge Cisco’s claimed exclusivity to provide warranty support on network gear operating systems. Looking to break open the market, Multiven sued Cisco alleging antitrust violations. Cisco countersued that Alfred-Adekeye allegedly used ill-gotten credentials to access Cisco computers to download proprietary information the company says was worth “over $14,000.”
While the civil lawsuits played out, Alfred-Adekeye – U.K. citizen and passport holder – was denied a visa to enter the United States. This complicated the legal proceedings. Eventually, the two sides made arrangements to hold a deposition in Vancouver under the supervision of a court-appointed special master.
In May 2010, just as the deposition was getting underway in a hotel conference room, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police executed an arrest warrant for Alfred-Adekeye. The warrant was issued on behalf of U.S. prosecutors who issued a complaint that the Canadian court deemed virtually “mirrors” the Cisco civil lawsuit.
The competing civil suits between Alfred-Adekeye and Cisco were settled out of court shortly after his arrest in 2010. Nevertheless, the criminal proceedings continued.
In response to the Canada court decision, Cisco provided this statement to Channelnomics:
“The US Secret Service issued a criminal complaint after nearly two years of investigation alleging that Mr. Adekeye violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in 97 distinct instances, and as a result a federal judge signed an arrest warrant for Mr. Adekeye. Ultimately, this case is a matter between US and Canadian governmental authorities. Cisco also sued Mr. Adekeye based on evidence that he, the CEO of Multiven and an ex-employee of Cisco, stole information and software from Cisco using a current employee's credentials. The judge in that case found that Mr. Adekeye's conduct violated the federal anti-hacking statute.”
Alfred-Adekeye has since left Canada for his home in Switzerland, where he resides with his wife and children. Reports indicate that he has been unable to obtain a visa to enter the United States. There’s no word on whether U.S. prosecutors will appeal to the Swiss government to extradite Alfred-Adekeye. His company continues to operate normally.
Alfred-Adekeye hasn’t commented on the latest charges. However, Multiven did issue a statement on its Web site in May following the Canadian court decision that may indicate its position on these charges. The company writes:
“Multiven is committed to ensuring that consumers worldwide enjoy freedom, choice and value when procuring network maintenance services for their Cisco Internet infrastructure so that Internet access is available and affordable to all. In the light of the aforementioned, Multiven hereby calls on Governments and businesses worldwide to boycott Cisco as its continued patronage would mean supporting a company that is void of all moral ethical values and is willing to intimidate competitors (and customers alike) in order to meet its numbers.
We intend to hold Cisco, its CEO – John T. Chambers – general counsel Mark Chandler and all those responsible for this despicable act accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
Is Alfred-Adekeye completely innocent? That’s up to the courts to decide. But as the Canadian court indicated, it’s hard to imagine why the criminal proceedings are continuing when the near carbon-copy civil suit was settled.
And is Cisco wrong for wanting to protect its interest? Absolutely not. In fact, Cisco has embraced a program in which an increasing amount of professional services is being placed in the charge of its qualified partners. In some regard, this matter may have helped open Cisco’s policy toward channel services and support.
Regardless of which side you're on, the prosecution of Alfred-Adekeye is a curious case with no clear resolution, much less a winner or loser. While some are watching the patent and executives-headhunting legal battles between the tech giants, this case bears watching by all for its outcome and implications.
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Lawrence M. Walsh is CEO and president of The 2112 Group, a technology business advisory service that specializes in optimizing indirect channels and partner relationships. He’s also the executive director of the Channel Vanguard Council. He is the former publisher of Channel Insider and editor of VARBusiness Magazine. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.