Members of a Russian cyber-crime gang have been convicted of conspiring to defraud UK banks of almost £2m by infecting their customers’ computers with malware.
The gang were also convicted of money laundering in relation to distributing the money that was stolen.
Vugar Mollachiev, 37, was the final member of the gang to be sentenced. He was imprisoned for nine years today [30 November] at Southwark Crown Court.
The fraud worked by infecting personal and business computers which were monitored by the criminals to harvest passwords and personal information allowing them to gain access to online bank accounts.
They transferred the money to their own ‘mule accounts’ and then had that stolen money transferred abroad to Azerbaijan, Romania and the Ukraine by wire bank transfer.
The banks were forced to reimburse the individual victims, who were mostly businesses, for money lost.
The gang attempted to obtain £2m from three companies although the actual amount lost was £1.8m. Another 33 companies were also targeted, with a random sample of seven of them showing another £103,163.48 stolen.
The conspiracy was uncovered when the fraudulent transactions were detected and the mule accounts identified. Conspirators had withdrawn stolen money from accounts in their own names. They were caught on money exchange bureau CCTV footage acting suspiciously and buying foreign currency with the stolen money.
A clearer picture of the criminality was known after computer equipment was later seized and analysed from the arrested men.
Vugar Mollachiev, (also known as Nazim Ragimov) was the last to admit his role in the conspiracy and is the most prominent member of the gang to be prosecuted.
Mollachiev operated out of his home, first in Kings Road, Tottenham, and then Berkeley Gardens, Enfield.
He was convicted of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering at Southwark Crown Court on 29 September 2017 when he pleaded guilty. He received nine years imprisonment for money laundering, and nine years imprisonment for fraud, to be served concurrently.
Two other members of the gang, Aslan (Valera) Abazov, 31, Aslan Gergov, 30, were sentenced to a total of seven years each at Southwark Crown Court in July 2016 after admitting their involvement in the fraud and pleading guilty at a late stage in the proceedings.
Riaz Jakhura, of the London CPS Complex Casework Unit, said: “This was a sophisticated and organised cyber-fraud.
“Our prosecution included evidence of internet chat logs, mobile phones with the conspirators’ numbers stored on them, evidence of wire money transfers by the gang and forensic analysis of how the stolen money was distributed.
“The impact on businesses and banks was significant due to the amount of financial loss and breaches of online security”.
Notes to editors:
Riaz Jakhura is a Senior Crown Prosecutor in the CPS London Complex Casework Unit.
Mollachiev, Abazov and Gergov admitted conspiracy to defraud. Between 18 July 2012 and 10 November 2015 conspired together with others namely Aslan Abazov, Aslan Gergov and others to defraud the United Kingdom Clearing Banks
They also admitted concealing, converting, transferring or removing criminal property, contrary to section 327(1) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. Between 18 July 2012 and 10 November 2015 concealed, converted or transferred property, or removed property from England and Wales, knowing or suspecting that it constituted a person’s benefit from criminal conduct, or that it represented such a benefit, in whole or in part and whether directly or indirectly
Vugar Mollachiev (dob 07/09/1980) pleaded guilty to the offences on 29 September 2017 at Southwark Crown Court
Both Aslan Abazov (dob 10/05/1986), who lived in Lewisham, and Aslan Gergov (26/03/1987), who lived in Southwark, were sentenced on 11 July 2016 at Southwark Crown Court after earlier entering their pleas.