A year after Bank of Valletta 'cyber heist', cuffs applied as cash-cleansing case continues

Would sir care for an Audi with that Jag?

Nearly a year after Malta's Bank of Valletta (BOV) yanked itself from the internet amid a "cyber intrusion", Britain's National Crime Agency (NCA) has made three arrests.

Around £800k was transferred to a number of accounts during the 2019 "cyber heist", according to the NCA, one of which was in the UK and held in Belfast.

In the hours after the funds arrived, cash withdrawals and card payments were made to the tune of £340k, with money spaffed over London stores such as Harrods and Selfridges, the NCA alleged. Approximately £110k was spent on Rolex watches while other payments were made for an Audi A5 and a Jaaaaaag before cops caught up and blocked the account.

The three arrests were made in Belfast and London and are part of an investigation into the laundering of money linked to last Feburary's shenanigans.

The collars of two chaps, aged 22 and 17, were felt in London on 22 January (with a further man interviewed under caution) and a further two warrants were executed in Belfast yesterday, resulting in a 39-year-old being arrested on suspicion of money-laundering offences, fraud and theft.

The girls and boys in blue remain on the hunt for "a number of other suspects".

UK Plod has been working with the Malta Police Force Economic Crime Unit, focusing on individuals suspected of being involved in laundering money on behalf of the gang that carried out the attack.

The 2019 attack saw miscreants use malware in an attempt to siphon nearly €13m from accounts holding bank funds. The panicked bank pulled the plug, but not before funds were transferred. The BOV was keen at the time to emphasise that customer funds were "in no way impacted or compromised" by the breach.

"Our investigation continues," said NCA Belfast branch commander David Cunningham. ®

Updated at 14:18 on 31 January to add:

The girls and boys in blue have been busy. Since publication, a 33-year-old man returning from China to the UK was detained at Heathrow Airport last night and bailed. Two other men, aged 23 and 24, handed themselves into a Belfast police station and were also arrested on suspicion of money laundering offences, fraud and theft. Finally, the chap who had been arrested in Belfast yesterday has been bailed pending further enquiries. It's all go in the world of international intrigue and general naughtiness.

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