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Brit pair convicted for high-tech bank heist gone bad

Botched £229m USB stick plot

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Two men have been convicted for trying to steal £229m from the London branch of a Japanese bank in an elaborate, high-tech scheme that would have been Britain's biggest bank heist.

Hugh Rodley, 61, of Twyning, Tewksbury was found guilty in Snaresbrook crown court of conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to transfer criminal property. David Nash, 47 of Durrington, West Sussex was convicted of conspiracy to transfer criminal property, but acquitted of the fraud charge. Both men are scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday.

Rodley was described as a self-styled "Lord," after buying the title to a manor in Gloucestershire. Nash is said to have been the owner of a Soho sex shop. A third defendant on trial, Swedish national Inger Malmros, who lives in Gran Canaria, was cleared of both counts charged against her.

The plot involved the help of a security supervisor who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the case. He allowed hackers inside the Sumitomo Mitsui Bank in London where they used a USB memory stick to install keylogging software on various workstations. A few days later, the hackers returned to harvest usernames and passwords that were entered on the machines.

Armed with the purloined information, gang members attempted 10 transfers from bank customers including Toshiba and Nomura Holdings to accounts located in Spain, Dubai, Hong Kong, Turkey, and Israel. When the transactions failed, the men returned the following day and tried to transfer an even larger amount of funds to additional accounts located in Liechtenstein and Singapore. Those attempts failed as well.

In all, the botched transfers totaled some £229m. They probably would have succeeded were it not for some elementary mistakes the men made in filling out the SWIFT, or Society For Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, forms.

Bank employees quickly spotted the breach, and the security guard, identified as Kevin O'Donoghue, was arrested. Although the insider had dismantled many of the CCTV cameras, some tapes showed him joking and laughing as he led two men to a trading-office terminal on the night of the break-in.

Two Belgians - Jan Van Osselaer, 32, and Gilles Poelvoorde, 35 - were later apprehended and pleaded guilty to conspiracy. A third suspect, Bernard Davies, was also charged in the conspiracy, but died in his flat in central London in what some papers have reported as a suicide.

The gang is believed to have targeted other organizations in the UK and elsewhere, including one incident where some of its members tried to swindle £45,120 from the English National Ballet.

Not all of the gang members are believed to have been caught. A few days after the botched transfers were attempted, two unknown individuals entered a bank in Dubai and asked whether some of the funds had reached their account. They had not, so the individuals left. They haven't been seen since.

Coverage from the BBC, The Guardian, and AFP are here, here and here. ®

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