Last week NCA arrested six individuals in the United Kingdom because they are suspected to be involved in a Malta cyber-heist and money laundering operation.
Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) arrested six individuals in the United Kingdom because they are accused to be involved in a cyber-heist of a Malta bank and money laundering operation.
The individuals are accused to be involved in the attack against the Bank of Valletta that took place in February 2019.
Bank of Valletta is the largest bank in Malta that accounts for almost half of banking transactions in the country, it had to shut down its operations in February after hackers attempted to withdraw 13 million euros ($14.7 million).
The news was confirmed by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, hackers broke into the systems of the bank and transfer the funds overseas.
Muscat told parliament that threat actors attempted to transfer funds to banks in the Czech Republic, Hong Kong, Britain, and the US.
The attackers used a network of accounts to receive those funds, one of which was in Belfast. According to the NCA, crooks transferred roughly £800,000 (~$1.04 million) in the account in Belfast.
“Around £800,000 was illegally transferred into an account in Belfast, which then saw payments of more than £340,000 go out before the account could be blocked.” reads the press release published by the NCA.
“The money was spent at high end stores such as Harrods and Selfridges, to buy Rolex watches at a store in London, and on payments for a Jaguar and Audi A5 from a car dealership.”
The suspects were able to perform card payments and cash withdrawals of £340,000 (~$442,700) from the accounts, but once the authorities discovered the fraudulent activities it has blocked them.
The individuals used part of the money to make purchases at high-end stores such as Harrods and Selfridges in London, they bought Rolex watches for around £110,000 (~$143,000) at a store in London, and also made payments for a Jaguar and Audi A5 from a car dealership.
The NCA arrested two males (aged 22 and 17) on January 22, 2020, in the West Hampstead and Ladbroke Grove areas of London, the authorities also interviewed a third person.
On January 30, the NCA officers, along with officers from the PSNI, executed two warrants in the north and west Belfast areas and arrested a man (39) on suspicion of money laundering offences, fraud, and theft.
On January 31, two other males, aged 23 and 24, on suspicion of money laundering offences, fraud, and theft, the authorities handed them into a police station in Belfast. The police arrested another man, aged 33, at Heathrow Airport where he returned to the UK from China.
“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.
“This has led us to the arrests in London last week and Belfast today, and our investigation continues.”
“This operation demonstrates the reach of the NCA, both domestically and internationally.”
“Working with our law enforcement partners at home and overseas we are determined to do all we can to target and disrupt those involved in organised crime, here in Northern Ireland and across the rest of the UK.”