£25m Barclays blackmail trial begins
Tales from the crypt(o)
An encryption expert attempted to blackmail Barclays Bank for £25 million after becoming disillusioned with his work and leaving the bank, a jury at the Old Bailey heard yesterday.
Graham Browne, 57, from Knutsford in Cheshire, told police that his threat to reveal the encryption codes which protected the security of credit cards was "a joke" he had made to call attention to poor security practices at Barclays, prosecution barrister Sallie Bennett-Jenkins told the court.
Until January 2000, Browne headed Barclays' team of cryptographers but he became frustrated at what he saw as the bank's failure to recognise his skill and the value of his work.
After his application for voluntary redundancy was rejected "he became more erratic and his tolerance for the workplace diminished, Bennett-Jenkins told the court. He subsequently resigned, and to the surprise of those working with Browne, the bank accepted this decision, The Telegraph reports.
The prosecution case is that soon after leaving Browne sent the first of four letters to the firm's chief executive threatening to reveal sensitive codes which, if disclosed, would put the security of the bank's credit and debit card operation at risk. The letters were accompanied by demands that 14 people - including Browne - would get a payment of £25 million and that Barclays set up a unit to improve security.
On receipt of the fourth email, Barclays called in the police who subsequently arrested Browne after recovering incriminating evidence from his house and computer.
A number of pre-trial hearings in the case were hold behind closed doors, or in camera, because of concerns that sensitive details of security systems used by Barclays might be revealed.
A spokeswoman for the Crown Prosecution Service told us that the application to conduct hearings in camera was made by Browne's defence lawyers. No such application for the trial itself has yet been made, she told us, which means the trail is continuing to be heard in open court, at least for now.
Browne denies the charges against him and the case continues today. ®
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