Suspected Author of Love Virus Released for Lack of Evidence

Published May 9th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

After hours of questioning, Philippine investigators have released their prime suspect in the "ILOVEYOU" computer virus due to insufficient evidence.  

 

Chief state prosecutor Jovencito Zuno released 27-year-old Reomel Ramones pending another hearing at the department of justice on May 19. 

The conditional release was granted after the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) anti-fraud unit chief Nelson Bartolome was unable to produce sufficient supporting evidence. 

"This offence is highly technical, you have to be very sure," Zuno said. "The motion for temporary release of Ramones is hereby granted." 

The NBI had asked the department of justice to charge Ramones with violating the Access Devices Act which carries a maximum jail term of 10 years. 

The Act bans the use of devices to break into telecommunications systems. 

Tuesday's hearing before a government lawyer was to determine whether the charge would hold up in the courts, a pre-trial requirement for criminal cases in the Philippines. 

When NBI agents said they were still investigating evidence against Ramones, his lawyer, Jesus Disini, moved for his temporary release. 

Ramones' 25-year-old wife Irene de Guzman and her sister Jocelyn, 23, have also been questioned over the computer virus, but an NBI official said Tuesday they were not "officially detained and therefore the question of free or not free does not arise." 

Ramones, wearing a blue NBI long sleeve shirt, was prevented by his lawyer from answering questions as several NBI agents escorted him through a battery of reporters after the hearing. 

The "ILOVEYOU" virus was unleashed from a desktop computer late last week and infected an estimated 10 million computers worldwide including terminals at the White House, Congress and the Pentagon, as well as the British and Danish parliaments. 

The cnn.com cited authorities as they believe the virus was actually a scam designed to get the originator free Internet access.  

When activated, the virus destroyed files, replicated itself, accessed a program that searched for login names and passwords, and then mailed them back to the bug's author. The perpetrator could then use any victim's Internet account to surf for free.  

Philippine Internet service providers have confirmed their systems were used to spread the virus globally in a matter of hours. 

According to an estimate Monday from California-based Computer Economics, the virus and its variants have already caused economic damage worth nearly five billion dollars. 

NBI's Bartolome told the inquest that his officers had seized evidence which was being analyzed, including 17 pieces of diskettes. 

He told the inquest that NBI wanted to supplement evidence against Ramones but did not say when they could wind up their analysis – (Several Sources) 

 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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