A MAN has appeared in court accused of hacking into his former employer’s IT system and costing them hundreds of thousands of pounds in profit.

Lewis Howe is alleged to have unlawfully accessed computer systems of the Flying Trade Group and deleted key accounts after losing his job at the firm.

The 27-year-old did not enter a plea to a charge of unauthorised acts with the intent to impair operation of or hinder access to a computer when he appeared at Colchester Magistrates’ Court yesterday.

Gareth Hunter, prosecuting, said the matter should be heard at the crown court because of its severity.

He said: “There is 473 pages of evidence.

“He used to be an employee of the business which has an annual turnover of more than £100 million.

“He worked on the computers for the company - the Flying Trade Group.

“He was dismissed in October 2018 and shortly afterwards the firm suffered a cyber attack.

“Access was gained to the primary domain controller and key user accounts were deleted.

“It caused significant financial loss to the business and an estimated loss of profits of £200,000.

“It is a complicated and detailed matter.

“There was between two and three weeks of disruption.”

The Flying Trade Group, based in Parkeston, owns subsidiary company Surya Foods which provides international products to supermarkets in the UK.

Another of their companies - Surya Hotels - runs more than a dozen venues across the country including the iconic George Hotel in Colchester High Street.

The court heard the Flying Trade Group employed more than 1,400 people.

Magistrates decided the matter should be heard at Chelmsford Crown Court with a plea and trial preparation hearing scheduled for February 4.

Howe, of Abdy Avenue, Dovercourt, was released on unconditional bail.

Chairman of the bench Anthony Ealden said: “There is an expectation for you to meet with your advocate and get everything sorted for your hearing.”