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It Was Four Years Ago Today

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26 October 2009. It was four years ago today Sydney and I were 'busted' for allegedly attempting to sell Viagra to little old ladies on Crete. The allegation further contended we were working with the US marketing company AC Nielsen who functioned as a 'front' for this major global enterprise.

There was no evidence - only a wild claim by a totally mad woman. She printed out a message she'd received from us and one of the hundreds of spam messages she'd received with the forged sender address 'acnielsen.com'. She printed both these messages on her own office stationery, with the same masthead on both. The police looked at the printouts, saw that the mastheads were identical, and concluded that if we admitted to sending the one message then we'd surely sent the other as well.

This sounds totally other-worldly to anyone who's never been to Greece or Crete but it's 100% true. We received letters of character reference from colleagues and one very special letter from a client in the Pentagon. Nothing mattered. The police were determined to investigate fully. They'd busted a major crime ring.

The Athens Free Press heard about the case and heard about us. They knew who we were. 'Oh Buddha, must our nation once again wear the robes of shame?' they wrote in their scathing criticism of the incident. Nothing mattered. The prime minister Karamanlis and the minister of justice were sent letters of protest on a daily basis and nothing changed. Swedish EU minister Margot Wallström was alerted to the situation and her office deftly sidestepped the entire enquiry.

We were given a 'way out' early on. For the facile sum of €500 we could make the whole thing go away, much as others make cases go away on Crete. €200 was to go to the solicitor who claimed she could accomplish this and €100 was to go to each of the three judges in the 'Court of Three Judges'. We refused to take this way out.

The police later said they were convinced there were secret trap doors in our computers, controlled by secret passwords, and that inside these trap doors they'd find documents incriminating us. They weren't talking about hidden areas on the hard drives. They were talking about good old bona-fide real-life trap doors. On Apple aluminium PowerBooks.

The PowerBooks were under the Sony battery recall programme and we petitioned the authorities to let us replace the batteries as someone might otherwise be hurt. We pointed out this was a very serious matter and Sony had allocated $400 million for the programme. We provided reams of documentation with several pictures of exploding computers with the faulty batteries. We were told the risks were exaggerated and there was no reason to replace any batteries.

The 'mad woman' who'd filed the complaint recanted her testimony a half a year after the incident began, stating that 'maybe I don't know very much about computers'. Despite this, the police have not closed the case and refuse to return our equipment. The suspicion is the computer equipment is lost (or stolen) and so they cannot close the case without coming to terms with their own negligence.

The case was submitted to the European Court of Human Rights two years ago. At the current rate of processing cases - where the ECHR are currently working on filings for 2004 and 2005 - we might see a resolution in another 4-6 years time.

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