Prosecutors seek leniency for hacker

A prolific computer hacker who infiltrated the servers of major corporations later switched sides and helped the government disrupt hundreds of cyberattacks on Congress, NASA and other sensitive targets, according to federal prosecutors.

New York prosecutors detailed the cooperation of Hector Xavier Monsegur for the first time in court papers while asking a judge to reward him with leniency at his sentencing Tuesday. They credited Monsegur with helping them cripple Anonymous, the notorious crew of hacktivists who stole confidential information, defaced Web sites and temporarily put some victims out of business.

Working around the clock with FBI agents at his side, Monsegur “provided, in real time, information about then-ongoing computer hacks and vulnerabilities in significant computer systems,” prosecutors wrote. The FBI estimates that he helped detect at least 300 hacks, preventing millions of dollars in losses, they added.

After his arrest and guilty plea in 2011, Monsegur faced more than two decades behind bars. But because of his cooperation, the sentence could be two years or less. Monsegur’s whereabouts aren’t publicly known. One of his attorneys declined to comment Monday.

— Associated Press

Oil prices fall after Ukraine election

The price of oil slipped to near $104 a barrel Monday after preliminary results showed a billionaire businessman winning a clear majority in Ukraine’s presidential elections.

By mid-afternoon in Europe, benchmark crude for July delivery was down 27 cents, to $104.08 a barrel, in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Friday, the Nymex contract rose 61 cents, to settle at $104.35, bringing its weekly gain to $2.33.

Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, was down 60 cents, to $109.94, on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Candy tycoon Petro Poro­shenko, who supports close ties with Europe but also wants to mend relations with Russia, was leading the Ukrainian elections with about 54 percent of the votes when 75 percent of the precincts were counted Monday. Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was second with 13 percent. If those results hold, Poro­shenko would avoid a runoff election next month.

Oil prices have been underpinned by the threat of expanded Western sanctions over Russia’s role in the crisis in Ukraine, which is a key conduit for Russian gas deliveries to Europe. Although Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that his country would respect the outcome of the vote, there was still uncertainty.

Poroshenko’s victory “is being interpreted as a sign of the conflict easing, prompting some market participants to take profits,” said analysts at Commerzbank in Frankfurt. “The ongoing lack of stability in eastern Ukraine and the continuing production outages in Libya are likely to preclude any sharper fall in prices,” Commerzbank concluded.

Trading in energy futures was thinner than usual as markets were closed Monday in the United States and Britain.

— Associated Press

Debt deal reached with six airlines

Venezuela has reached deals with six airlines to pay for debts accumulated in 2012 and 2013, Finance Minister Rodolfo Marco Torres said Monday in a post on his Twitter account.

The South American country will pay Colombia’s Avianca Holdings SA for debt accumulated by its Avianca and Taca airlines in 2012, he said. An agreement also has been reached with Grupo Aeromexico SAB de CV, Curacao’s Insel Air, Ecuador’s Tame and Aruba Airlines for debt accumulated in 2013, Torres said.

Airlines had an equivalent of $3.9 billion stuck in bolivars as of April, according to the International Air Transport Association. The sales in bolivars can’t be exchanged into dollars for repatriation because of a decade-long system of currency controls.

The airline association said currency restrictions have prompted at least 11 carriers to cut capacity, sales or routes to South America’s largest oil exporter in the past year.

— Bloomberg News

Current-account deficit narrows

India’s current-account deficit narrowed to a new four-year low as higher tariffs reduced gold imports, giving Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government more room to bolster Asia’s third-largest economy.

The shortfall was $1.2 billion in January through March, compared with $4.2 billion for the prior quarter, the Reserve Bank of India said in a statement in Mumbai. The deficit was equivalent to 0.2 percent of gross domestic product for the quarter, while the gap for the fiscal year shrank to 1.7 percent from 4.7 percent in the previous 12 months.

A shrinking shortfall will bolster India’s rupee, which has rebounded from a record low on optimism about Modi, who was sworn in Monday.

— Bloomberg News