Watch: 3 arrested in UK over €13m BOV cyber-heist

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Three men have been arrested in the UK over suspicions that they were involved in the hacking of €13 million from the Bank of Valletta last year, the UK’s National Crime Agency has reported.

Two men, aged 22 and 17, had been arrested on 22 January following raids in the West Hampstead and Ladbroke Grove areas of London, while another man was interviewed under cautions. Earlier today, NCA officers supported by officers from the Police Services of Northern Ireland, executed two warrants in Belfast, leading to the arrest of a 39-year-old man on suspicion of money laundering offences, fraud and theft.

The Economic Crimes Unit of the Malta Police Force has helped in the investigation, which was launched following the cyber-heist which targeted BOV on 13 February, 2019. The bank was forced to shut down, with staff brought to work overnight to fix the security breach.

While clients’ accounts remained untouched and no personal data was reported to have been leaked, the bank lost €13 million. While all the transactions were quickly traced, this alone was far from sufficient in closing the case.

The funds were diverted into a number of accounts, of which one was held in Belfast. Around £800,000 were transferred to this account, and a number of card payments and cash withdrawals totalling £340,000 were made from the account before it could be blocked.

These included payments to high-end stores in London, the purchase of around £110,000 on luxury watches, and payments for luxury cars.

The Maltese authorities alerted the NCA, setting in motion an investigation behind these payments which culminated in the arrests. A number of other suspects are still being sought in connection with the investigation.

“This operation demonstrates the reach of the NCA, both domestically and internationally,” NCA Belfast branch commander David Cunningham said.

“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.”