Israeli accused of hacking released by UK authorities due to misunderstanding

By Raphael Satter

(Reuters) - An Israeli private investigator arrested over allegations of hacking on behalf of an unnamed U.S. lobbying firm was released because of a procedural error, British authorities said Thursday.

Amit Forlit was arrested at London's Heathrow Airport on April 30 at the request of U.S. authorities, who accuse him of engaging in a hack-for-hire scheme to gather intelligence about the dispute over the aftermath of Argentina's debt default.

But the National Crime Agency said that "due to a misunderstanding, he wasn't produced at court within the allocated timeframe."

"His case was subsequently discharged by the Judge and he was released," the agency said in a statement.

British prosecutors confirmed in a statement that the case against Forlit had been discharged "and therefore there are no proceedings against him at this time."

Reuters could not determine Forlit's current whereabouts. His lawyers in the United States - where he faces a separate lawsuit over a different set of hacking allegations - did not return several messages seeking comment.

In previous conversations with Reuters, Forlit has denied being a hacker.

The U.S. Justice Department and the FBI declined comment. In comments to a British court last week, a lawyer representing the United States said an unnamed Washington-based lobbying and public relations firm had paid one of Forlit's companies 16 million pounds ($20 million) to gather information "relating to the Argentinian debt crisis."

($1 USD = 0.8 GBP)

(Reporting by Raphael Satter; Editing by Michael Erman)