BY TOBY PORTER
Three members of a Russian cyber gang who infected computers to grab bank account details and steal almost £2million have been sentenced to a total of 23 years in prison.
The trio monitored business desktops to harvest passwords and personal information and gain access to accounts. The gang – one from Southwark and one from Lewisham – then transferred hundreds of thousands in cash to “mule” accounts and wired them to other accounts in Azerbaijan, Romania and Ukraine.
All three were also convicted of money laundering charges, for distributing the stolen money between July 18, 2012 and November 10, 2015.
Two of them had been found guilty last year, but Vugar Mollachiev, – also known as Nazim Ragimov, 37, – was the last to admit his role in the conspiracy and is the most
prominent member of the gang to be prosecuted.
Both Aslan Abazov, 31, who lived in Lewisham, and Aslan Gergov, 30, who lived in Southwark, were sentenced on July 11, 2016 at Southwark Crown Court after earlier entering their pleas. More than 36 companies were targeted – and their banks were forced to reimburse the victims, mostly businesses, for money lost.
The gang attempted to obtain £2million from three companies although the actual amount lost was £1.8million. 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 Conspirators had withdrawn stolen money from accounts in their own names.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.
Their computers were seized and a clearer picture gleaned after their contents were analysed.
Mollachiev, who operated out of his home, first in Kings Road, Tottenham, and then Berkeley Gardens, Enfield, north London was the last to admit his role in the conspiracy.
He was convicted of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering at Southwark Crown Court on September 29, 2017 when he pleaded guilty.
He received nine years imprisonment for money laundering, and nine years imprisonment for fraud, to be served concurrently.
The two other members of the gang, Abazov and Gergov, had been sentenaced 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”.
The trio also admitted concealing, converting, transferring or removing criminal property, contrary to section 327(1) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. Between July 18, 2012 and November 10, 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.