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Eagle-eyed hack uncovers eBay gun sales probe

Grand Jury haul head honchos in to testify

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A grand jury has quizzed eBay to see if it broke the law by flogging guns online, it was revealed today.

At least four top eBay execs have been hauled before the federal grand jury since January last year as part of the probe, including head honcho Pierre Omidyar. The billionaire testified for five hours on 3 August 1999, documents show, defending his company's behaviour.

"In every conversation with our own outside counsel, inside counsel, ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms), and other... law enforcement agencies, we were left with the impression that there was nothing that we were doing that was illegal," testified Omidyar.

The documents that show the legal action were picked up by an eagle-eyed Bloomberg hack who was strolling past a recycling bin.

The reporter spotted the confidential documents - including legal briefs, snippets of testimony, and correspondence between lawyers - left atop a pile of documents in the uncovered container in the hallway of the federal courthouse in Manhattan, and bagged the scoop (and no doubt many Bloomberg brownie points from his superiors).

"You found something that shouldn't have been where it was," observed court clerk Roseann MacKechnie.

No shit, Sherlock. The documents, which showed prosecutors in Manhattan subpoenaed the online auction house on 29 January last year, were first placed under court seal to ensure secrecy regarding the grand jury probe.

But now eBay's dirty laundry is out and being aired in public. "The grand jury is investigating the unlawful sale of firearms, firearms-related items, an other items advertised and sold on eBay's online auction site," showed one legal brief.

No indictments have been returned, and both sides declined to say whether the investigation had ended. ®

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