Israel arrests man for hacking into computers and leaking Madonna songs

JERUSALEM (Reuters, Agence France-Presse) - An Israeli man was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of hacking into the computers of singers including pop star Madonna and selling their songs online, according to Israeli and American law enforcement sources.

An Israeli police spokesman said a 39-year-old Israeli had been detained, but declined to name him, citing a court-issued gag order.

United States Federal Bureau of Investigation spokesman Joshua Campbell said the arrest of the Tel Aviv resident was the result of an ongoing investigation by the FBI and Israeli authorities. "This case highlights the international scope of online criminal activity and the need for close cooperation between nations as we collectively identify and bring to justice those who pose a threat in cyberspace," he said.

Madonna said she was grateful to the FBI, Israeli police investigators and anyone who helped in the arrest of the hacker. "Like any citizen, I have the right to privacy. This invasion into my life - creatively, professionally and personally remains a deeply devastating and hurtful experience, as it must be for all artists who are victims of this type of crime," she said in a statement.

In December, unfinished tracks were leaked before the release of Madonna's album Rebel Heart, an act the singer described as "artistic rape" in a post later deleted from her Instagram account.

Israeli private investigator Asher Wizman said Madonna's team contacted his company several weeks ago to look into the matter after rumours of an Israeli connection to the leak.

Madonna, a devotee of Kabbalah or Jewish mysticism, has visited Israel several times and kicked off a 2012 world tour in Tel Aviv. "Our investigator found her computers, at home and at a studio, were broken into from a computer in Israel," Wizman said. "We tracked down the computer, and the man behind it. After gathering enough evidence, we turned to the police and he was arrested today."

The Israeli police said they launched the investigation with the FBI following a complaint from a Madonna representative in Israel.

The Israeli media said the man taken into custody was a former contestant on a popular television singing contest in Israel. A recording of his singing broadcast on military radio showed a stark lack of musical talent.

"He is suspected of computer hacking, copyright violation and fraudulent receipt of goods," a police spokesman said. "During the investigation it appeared the suspect had broken into the computers of a number of international artists, stole unreleased demos and final tracks and sold them over the internet," the spokesman said. No charges have yet been filed against him.