Men arrested on suspicion of connection with €13m cyber-attack on Malta bank

North’s National Crime Agency boss says ‘large amount’ of proceeds ‘funnelled through bank account in Belfast’

Three men have been arrested in Belfast on suspicion of money-laundering offences, fraud and theft in connection with a €13 million cyber-attack on a bank in Malta.

Two men, aged 23 and 24, handed themselves in to a police station on Friday morning.

A third man, aged 39, was detained following searches in north and west Belfast on Thursday. He has been released on bail pending further enquiries.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) said that in February 2019 a strain of malware was used to steal around €13 million from accounts holding bank funds.


This money was then transferred to a number of accounts, including one in Belfast which received about £800,000 (€950,000).

Card payments and cash withdrawals worth about £340,000 (€304,000) were made from the account before it could be blocked.

The NCA said these included payments to department stores such as Harrods and Selfridges in London and about £110,000 (€130,000) which was spent on Rolex watches, as well as payments to a car dealership for a Jaguar and an Audi A5.

There also have been three arrests in London. A 33-year-old man, who had just arrived from China, was arrested at Heathrow airport on Thursday night. He was questioned by the NCA and released on bail pending further enquiries.

Two other men, aged 17 and 22, were arrested in London on January 23rd following searches in the in West Hampstead and Ladbroke Grove areas.

The NCA's branch commander in Belfast, David Cunningham, said their 12-month investigation had been carried out with the help of the Malta Police Force's Economic Crime Unit and "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".

A “large amount” of the proceeds, he said, “were funnelled through a bank account here in Belfast.

“It demonstrates how this type of criminality is often international in nature, and how tackling it is a priority for the National Crime Agency and partners, both within the UK and around the world.

“We will continue to work with the Maltese police as our investigation goes forward,” he said.

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times