Russian gang jailed for using 'mule accounts' to launder £4.5 million in cyber crime cash

Accounts operated by the group were used to launder almost £1 million.

pjimage (6) [L-R] Aslan Abazov and Kazbek Vartilov Met Police Met Police

FIVE MEN HAVE been jailed in London on charges related to a massive fraud network which has laundered £4.5 million (€5.3 million) over the past two years.

Appearing before court today were Aslan Abazov, 30, and Aslan Gergov, 29 – the two regarded as the main organisers of the group. Both received sentences of more than seven years.

Also in court was one of their mules Sergo Sahin, 26, who was sentenced to 18 weeks’ imprisonment.

At an earlier hearing Andrejs Ignatjevs, 48, was sentenced to five months’ imprisonment and Kazbek Varitlov, 33, was sentenced to seven and a half months.

pjimage (7) [L-R] Aslan Gergov and Andrejs Ignatjevs Met Police Met Police

Money laundering

The gang were not implicated in the theft of any cash – but rather the laundering of large sums.

The major incident which led to the gang’s downfall was laundering cash that came from a cyber attack on a leading UK high street bank in November 2014.

Cyber criminals managed to hack into five business accounts using malware to transfer large sums to more than 160 ‘mule accounts’. 

The total amount siphoned came to almost £1 million (€1.2 million).

After the money was in the ‘mule accounts’ the gang set about withdrawing it in large cash sums at currency exchanges, drawing between £2,000 (€2,350) and £4,000 (€4,700) each time.

More extravagantly, the group also purchased high-cost items of women’s jewellery including a white gold bracelet purchased for £3,400 (€4,000) and a diamond love necklace purchased for £2,970 (€3,490).

pjimage (8) Examples of watches purchased by the gang Met Police Met Police

The group were foiled after Ignatjevs and Varitlov attempted to buy large sums of Euros from currency exchanges at Heathrow Airport.

Further investigation allowed London’s Metropolitan Police to determine that Abazov and Gergov were the main organisers of the group.

Total cost of fraud 

After examining computers owned by the group, the Met Police’s detectives were able to determine that the total loss to victims over a two-year period amounted to around £3.5 million (€4.1 million) – bringing the total figure for their fraud to around £4.5 million (€5.3 million).

The scale of the operation was such that Abazov and Gergov were using their illegal gains to finance building projects in Russia.

In a statement today, the Met Police has said that the gang operated on a hierarchy with Abazov and Gergov at the top – with the pair liaising with the criminals responsible for hacking the accounts.

So far only £190,731.68 worth of the cash stolen in November 2014 has been recovered.

Read: Couple who made over €1.8 million by trading with stolen bank details jailed

Also: The Government is thinking up new ways to stop you from being hacked

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