Updated | Arrests in Belfast and London over €13 million cyber-heist on Bank of Valletta

Three men, one who is just 17-years-old, have been arrested in the UK over the cyber-heist which robbed Bank of Valletta of €13 million • Bank supporting local and international police in investigations

United Kingdom National Crime Agency officers have made three arrests in Belfast and London as part of an investigation into money laundering linked to a cyber heist on a bank in Malta.

In February 2019 a strain of malware was used to access systems and illegally remove funds of around €13 million from accounts holding bank funds.

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.

This led to the arrests of two males aged 22 and 17 in raids in West Hampstead and Ladbroke Grove areas of London on Wednesday 23 January. An additional male was interviewed under caution.

On Thursday 30 January, NCA officers, supported by officers from the PSNI, executed two warrants in the north and west Belfast areas, arresting a man, aged 39, on suspicion of money laundering offences, fraud and theft. He remains in custody.

Officers are still seeking a number of other suspects in connection with their investigation.

NCA Belfast branch commander David Cunningham said: “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.

“This operation demonstrates the reach of the NCA, both domestically and internationally. 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.”

BOV supporting police in investigations

In a statement on Friday, BOV said it welcomed the news about the arrests in connection with the February 2019 cyber incident which targeted the bank.

"The incident was quickly detected by the bank and since then we have been supporting local and international police authorities in their investigations," BOV said.

"Given these investigations are ongoing, we are unable to make any further comment at this stage," it added.

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