One of three New Zealand citizens has admitted his part in a major international spamming operation and will pay a financial penalty of $100,000 plus costs of $7666.
Lance Atkinson, who lives in Pelican Waters, Queensland, sought settlement soon after the Department of Internal Affairs announced court proceedings against him in October. Two other defendants, his brother Shane Atkinson, and courier Roland Smits, of Christchurch are contesting the claim and have filed statements of defence. Lance Atkinson is still to face court action in the United States brought against him by the Federal Trade Commission.
The settlement with Lance Atkinson was contained in a judgement of the Hon Justice French, in the High Court in Christchurch, issued on Friday (Dec 19).
Internal Affairs’ Anti-Spam Compliance Unit investigated the operation resulting in the first court action under the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act 2007. More than two million unsolicited electronic messages were sent to New Zealand computers between 5 September 2007 and 31 December 2007. These emails marketed Herbal King, Elite Herbal and Express Herbal branded pharmaceutical products, manufactured and shipped by Tulip Lab of India, through a business known as the Genbucks Affiliate Programme. This business was operated by Genbucks Ltd, a company incorporated in the Republic of Mauritius.
Justice French said in her judgement that the spamming operation was said to be one of the largest in the history of the internet and its impact on New Zealand was therefore proportionately large.
The maximum penalty provided in the UEM Act for an individual is $200,000 but Justice French said Lance Atkinson was entitled to a substantial discount because of his co-operation and candour with authorities at an early stage, his undertaking to comply with the Act and the fact that the spamming began before it became illegal.
Internal Affairs’ Anti-Spam Compliance Unit Manager, Joe Stewart, welcomed the decision.
“This is a first under the new law and is just reward for the effort put in by our investigators and overseas agencies, particularly the FTC,” Joe Stewart said. “The negative effects of spam are significant and far reaching and it’s pleasing to know there’s at least one less spammer plaguing the internet.”