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Latvia's 'Robin Hood' hacker unmasked as AI researcher

Nabbed after baring fat-cat salaries

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Latvian police have identified a computer science researcher as the folk hero who hacked government systems to expose the fat salaries received by state officials despite a draconian austerity drive in effect.

The hacker calling himself Neo and conducting his whistleblower campaign on Twitter was unmasked as Ilmars Poikans, an artificial-intelligence researcher in the University of Latvia's computer science department, according to news reports. He admitted he was the person behind embarrassing leaks that showed government officials earning as much as 4,000 lats ($7,100) a month while salaries for teachers were slashed by one-third to $600.

Police detained the 31-year-old on Wednesday and released him on Thursday. They cited his cooperation in explaining why they weren't pushing for pre-trial incarceration.

Neo, named after the protagonist in The Matrix, made headlines in February after claiming to have downloaded more than 7 million records from Latvia's national tax office and publishing much of them online. Using Twitter as a megaphone, he argued the fat-cat salaries were proof the country's rank-and-file got a raw deal in taking on austerity measures that were a condition of a $9.5bln loan from the International Monetary Fund.

He has since been regarded as a modern-day Robin Hood by many in his country. A raid conducted earlier this week on the home of a Latvian reporter who covered the leaks was widely criticized by journalists. Neo supporters staged a brief flash mob demonstration Thursday outside the government's cabinet office.

More from the AFP and Reuters is here and here. ®

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