UK Arrests Cyber-Thieves Who Stole Millions from Maltese Bank

Published: 03 February 2020

UK NCA PolicePolice arrested six people in London and Belfast suspected of Bank of Valletta cyber heist. (UK National Crime Agency)

By Zdravko Ljubas

The UK National Crime Agency (NCA) said on Friday that its officers arrested six people suspected of being involved in last year’s €13 million (US$14.38 million) Maltese Bank of Valletta cyber heist.

Investigators followed the money and found that more than $1 million was funneled through an account in Northern Ireland. The suspects were arrested on suspicion of money laundering, fraud and theft.

Two men, aged 17 and 22, were arrested in London on January 22, while the other four, mostly younger men, according to the statement, were arrested in London and Belfast on Thursday and Friday.

Two of the six suspects handed themselves in to the Belfast police following warrants against them.

Before it was blocked, the group allegedly managed to withdraw nearly $450,000 from the Northern Ireland account and went on a shopping spree, buying Rolex watches, a Jaguar and an Audi A5 among other things.

“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 organised crime group who carried out the cyber-attack,” said David Cunningham, NCA Belfast branch commander.

The ongoing investigation is focused on those suspected of “having helped launder the proceeds of this cyber attack,” he said.

The breach into the Bank of Valletta system occurred on February 13 last year, after which the bank shut down all of its operations for more than 24 hours. Three months later, in May, the bank said it had recovered €10 million ($11.05 million) of the total sum.