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Colombian hacker who spied on gov-rebel peace talks jailed for 10 years

Quoted The Count of Monte Cristo at trial ...

A Colombian hacker has been incarcerated for 10 years for spying on the local government’s peace talks with Marxist rebels, among other offences, Fox News Latino reports.

Andrés Sepúlveda received the harsh sentence even after he admitted snooping on both sides during government negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). More specifically, Sepúlveda tapped communications of FARC Commander Rodrigo "Timochenko" Londono and former liberal Senator Piedad Cordoba.

Sepúlveda was found guilty of espionage, illegal wire-tapping, slinging malware, breaching communications and unauthorised access to classified information. As well as a long jail term, Sepúlveda was also ordered to pay a $30,000 fine.

The snooping was supposedly geared towards helping then-presidential candidate Óscar Iván Zuluaga to dig up dirt against president Juan Manuel Santos during Colombia's 2014 presidential campaign. Investigators concluded that the whole effort was designed to undermine the peace process as well as discredit Santos.

The Latin Times reports that Sepúlveda acted as an employee of Zuluaga. Sepúlveda was arrested in May 2014 after investigators traced wiretaps back to secret offices.

The hacker might have faced an even longer sentence but for a plea bargain agreement where he agreed to hand over information to the Colombian authorities and cop a plea, eHackingNews reports.

Sepúlveda – who said his biggest mistake was mixing work with politics – apologised to the government and police (though not the FARC guerillas) and quoted from The Count Of Monte Cristo following his sentence.

"It's necessary to have wished for death in order to know how good it is to live," he said.

A media career as Colombia's answer to G Gordon Liddy – former chief operative in Nixon's notorious White House Plumbers, the group that committed the Watergate break-ins – surely beckons for Sepúlveda upon his release.

Colombia Reports relates that the scandal unsurprisingly dominated last year's elections. It resulted in the resignation of Zuluaga’s campaign manager Luis Alfonso Hoyos only weeks before the poll, as well as resulting in a criminal investigation against Hoyos and the presidential candidate’s son.

Meanwhile, peace talks between the Colombian government and FARC – which has been in open insurrection in the country since 1964 – continue in Cuba, despite failure to make a binding ceasefire. ®

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