A “MANIPULATIVE” former civil servant hacked into more than 500 women’s computer accounts and blackmailed them into sending intimate pictures.

Akash Sondhi “wreaked havoc” for more than two years by posing as women’s friends to get access to their social media accounts.

The 27-year-old, of Hedingham Close, Chafford Hundred, would then lock the women out of their accounts and demand intimate photos of them.

He would threaten to post images he already had of them from hacking their accounts to friends and family if the women didn’t comply.

Sondhi’s 573 victims were from Essex and across the globe, with some as far as Australia and Hong Kong, highlighting the “astonishing” reach of his offending.

A number of his victims were also under the age of 18.

Sondhi, who previously worked for the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office and Cabinet Office, hacked the accounts between Boxing Day 2016 and March last year, when he was arrested.

He mainly used Snapchat to target his victims, as well as other social media platforms.

Some of the young women complied with his requests and in at least six cases he carried out his threats.

At Basildon Crown Court yesterday, Sondhi admitted 42 counts of using a computer to enable unauthorised access of data, plus 21 counts of blackmail, and two counts of voyeurism, relating to when he secretly filmed a woman getting undressed.

He was jailed for 11 years.

One of Sondhi’s victims bravely shared her victim personal statement in court.

The woman said: “I attempted to take my own life due to the level of worthlessness. It has had a massive impact on my friendships.”

Judge Samantha Cohen told Sondhi: “You were a source of pride to your family, but now you are a source of shame.

“The impact has been far more serious for the women you blackmailed.

“A number of them were aged 16 to 18. There was an extreme level of anxiety.

“You wrecked havoc for over two years.”

Joseph Stickings, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Akash Sondhi was an extremely manipulative man.

“He inflicted emotional and psychological damage on young women whilst also getting gratification from their images and videos.”