A 29-year-old man alleged to have been part of a group that blew up at least 15 cash machines in Germany managed to kill himself and injure an associate last year while filming a video tutorial on how to blow up ATMs, according to European authorities.
Europol in a statement this week said the Dutch and German police had arrested a total of nine suspects over the course of an 18-month investigation that concluded earlier this week.
The inquiry began in February 2020, according to Europol, after authorities in Osnabrück, Germany, took note of unusual orders of ATM machines from a German ATM vendor.
"Special surveillance measures were put in place, which led the investigators to Utrecht, the Netherlands, where a 29-year-old individual and his 24 year-old accomplice were running an illegal training center for ATM attacks," Europol said. "There, the pair was ordering different models of ATMs and recording tutorials on how to most effectively blow them up."
These tutorials were reportedly intended to be presented in-person to like-minded individuals, presumably out of concern that posting the videos to the internet would attract the wrong kind of attention.
In September 2020, the pair were filming one of these tutorials when things didn't go as planned. The 29-year-old died and the 24-year-old was injured and taken into custody, according to Agence France Presse.
A report in the NLTimes last year says that a 29-year-old was killed in an explosion in Utrecht on September 5, 2020. It does not explain the source of the blast and does not mention any other survivors.
The investigation found ties between the bomb video makers and more than 15 attacks on ATMs in Germany estimated to have cost €2.15m (~$2.5m) in lost funds and property damage.
By April 2021, Dutch and German authorities had set up a Joint Investigation Team, with funding from Eurojust, and Europol took part in a separate Operational Taskforce to coordinate the sharing of resources between the two countries.
The investigation wrapped up on September 28, 2021, when a search of seven houses in Utrecht, Amsterdam and the Hague in the Netherlands led to the arrest of three suspects. These three now await extradition to Germany. The six others in custody were arrested during the past year.
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In April, the European Association for Secure Transactions (EAST) published a report on ATM crime in 2020. Overall, ATM crime in the EU was down as a result of the social consequences of COVID-19.
"While it is good news to see such a significant fall in terminal fraud attacks, there is concern that explosive attacks at ATMs have only fallen by 6 per cent, and that related losses are up by 39 per cent," said EAST Executive Director Lachlan Gunn in a statement. "The average cash loss for a solid explosive attack is estimated at €28,218, and collateral damage to equipment and buildings can be significant."
There were 923 explosive attacks on ATMs in the EU last year, down from 977 in 2019.
However, malware and logical attacks against ATMs increased 44 per cent during the same period (from 35 to 129). All of these were "Black Box attacks" in which unauthorized hardware sends commands to empty or "jackpot" cash dispensers. ®