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E-mailer Arrested for Banking Panic

July 1, 1999

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ A man who fired off a series of e-mails asserting the financial instability of a bank _ triggering a run on the institution _ was arrested for creating financial panic, authorities said Wednesday.

Jose Omar Olaya, 24, allegedly sent numerous messages from a Hotmail e-mail account on May 27 to private individuals and employees of Davivienda Bank urging all account holders to withdraw their funds in light of a pending government intervention.

Olaya’s e-mail campaign caused a flood of second- and third-hand e-mails, exponentially spreading the misinformation, authorities said.

Panicked account holders withdrew $11.4 million from the bank in a single day, forcing the government to lend Davivienda some reserves.

``It is the first case of inciting economic panic via the Internet in Colombian history,″ said Tulio Gomez, chief of the special unit on electronic information of the state security agency, or DAS.

Olaya’s alleged actions broke a law against inciting economic panic and are punishable by up to eight years in jail, said Gomez.

Olaya was arrested Wednesday at his home in the Pacific port of Buenaventura.

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