Six individuals were arrested in the United Kingdom last week for their involvement in a bank cyber-heist and money laundering operation.
The arrests were made in connection to the laundering of money stolen in February 2019 from Malta’s Bank of Valletta, after cyber-criminals used malware to access the bank’s systems and illegally remove around €13 million (~$14.36 million).
The hackers used multiple accounts to receive those funds, one of which was in Belfast, UK. Roughly £800,000 (~$1.04 million) was transferred, the UK National Crime Agency says.
Within hours, the perpetrators performed card payments and cash withdrawals of £340,000 (~$442,700) from the accounts, before a block could be put on them.
The individuals involved in the illegal activity made purchases at high end stores such as Harrods and Selfridges in London, spent around £110,000 (~$143,000) on Rolex watches at a store in London, and also made payments for a Jaguar and Audi A5 from a car dealership.
On January 22, 2020, the NCA arrested two men, aged 22 and 17, in the West Hampstead and Ladbroke Grove areas of London in relation to this operation, and interviewed a third.
On January 30, another man, aged 39, was arrested in Belfast. On January 31, two men, aged 23 and 24, were arrested after they handed themselves in to a police station in Belfast. Another man, aged 33, was detained at Heathrow Airport as he returned to the UK from China.
The individuals are suspected of being involved in money laundering, fraud, and theft.
“Our 12-month investigation, carried out with the help of the Malta Police Force Economic Crime Unit, has focused on a number of individuals we suspect may have been involved in laundering money on behalf of the organized crime group who carried out the cyber-attack,” NCA Belfast branch commander David Cunningham said.