LONDON (Kyodo) A British man has been found guilty of plotting to defraud a Japanese bank in London of £229 million ($324 million), Britain’s Press Association reported Wednesday.

Hugh Rodley was found guilty by a jury of conspiring to defraud the London office of Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation Europe Ltd. between Jan. 1, 2004, and Oct. 5, 2004, according to the report.

Detectives say if Rodley had been successful it would have been the biggest bank theft in Britain’s history. Several high-profile Japanese companies were targeted in the brazen crime, which involved hacking into the bank’s computer system and recording secret passwords.

In a statement, Sharon Lemon, director of the electronic crime unit for Britain’s Serious Organized Crime Agency, said, “This was an audacious attempt to pull off the biggest bank theft this country has ever seen.”

The Snaresbrook Crown Court in east London heard how Rodley masterminded the operation, which included two Belgian hackers and the bank’s then security supervisor. The three men, who admitted their roles in the conspiracy earlier, will be sentenced along with Rodley and another coconspirator Wednesday.

The jury was told that the plot involved the two computer hackers being let into the bank’s office on several occasions at night in September 2004 by the company’s then security supervisor. He let them in using security cards belonging to other staff members.

The two computer experts then installed pirated software into some of the computers to record the secret passwords and login details of the bank’s staff members.

Once this information had been gathered, the two hackers returned to the bank on the weekend of Oct. 1, 2004, and tried to transfer money belonging to Sumitomo’s clients into accounts set up all over the world.

The men attempted to send 10 massive transfers in sterling and euros. The accounts that were targeted included those of Toshiba International, Sumitomo Chemical, Nomura Asset Management and Mitsui OSK Lines, the Press Association reported.

But the following day, they realized the money had not been transferred properly, so they returned and tried to make 11 more transactions.

However, the court heard that the hackers failed to successfully transfer the money into the accounts because they did not enter the passwords into the correct fields of the unfamiliar electronic banking forms.

Staff at the bank returning to work after the weekend became suspicious when they realized the computers were not working properly and some of the cables had been taken out.

Police also discovered that the security supervisor had tried to erase all evidence of the gang’s presence on the bank’s security cameras but police found footage of him letting the two hackers into the building.

The court heard that Rodley created several front companies and was connected to several bank accounts across the world set up to receive the stolen money.

Detectives believe other people who have yet to be caught were also involved in the conspiracy.

SOCA’s Lemon said in the statement, “Thanks to the banks’ security systems and procedures, it was detected, and SOCA used its technical expertise and international reach to investigate.

“By working closely with the private sector and our law enforcement colleagues, both at home and overseas, we have brought a well-organized international crime network to U.K. justice. The message is clear — the U.K. is not a soft target for organized crime.”

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.