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Police have foiled an audacious attempt by criminal hackers to steal £220 million from a Japanese banking group in the City, it emerged today.
A high-tech crime ring planned to use "keylogging" technology - which records every keystroke typed into computers - to gain access to Sumitomo's systems in London and transfer money electronically to ten bank accounts around the world.
But the bank's own security officers discovered the breach last October and called in the National High-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU), which, according to a source familiar with the investigation, monitored them until arrests could be made. "They strung them along," the source said.
If the heist had been successful, it would have been Britain's biggest ever bank theft, easily dwarfing last year's £26 million Northern Bank raid in Belfast. Experts said that it would also have been the world's biggest cybercrime.
News of the attempted theft appeared in today's Financial Times after the arrest yesterday of an Israeli man whose business account had been the intended recipient of €20 million (£13.9m). The NHTCU declined to comment on the case today, although sources close to the organisation said further arrests were expected in the coming days.
Police in Israel identified the man arrested as 32-year-old Yaron Bolondi. He appeared at a Tel Aviv court this morning charged with attempted money laundering and deception and was remanded in custody for a week.