The UK's National Crime Agency has made three arrests in Belfast and London over a EUR13 million cyber heist at Malta's Bank of Valletta.
The Maltese bank was forced to shut down all Internet access, including branches and cashpoints, in February last year after detecting a cyber intrusion by criminals who used a strain of malware to make false international payments totaling $14.7 million to banks in Britain, the United States, the Czech Republic and Hong Kong.
A number of accounts were used to receive those funds, one of them was in the UK and was held in Belfast. Around £800,000 was transferred.
In the following hours a number of card payments and cash withdrawals totalling £340,000 were made from the account before a block could be put on them.
They included payments to high end stores such as Harrods and Selfridges in London, around £110,000 spent on Rolex watches at a store in London, and payments for a Jaguar and Audi A5 from a car dealership.
The Maltese authorities alerted the NCA and an investigation was launched into those behind the payments.
NCA Belfast branch commander David Cunningham says officers are still seeking a number of other suspects in connection with their investigation.
Says Cunningham: “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.
“This has led us to the arrests in London last week and Belfast today, and our investigation continues."