Sat, Jul 16, 2016 - Page 12 News List

ATM heist not an inside job: First Commercial Bank

ORGANIZED CRIME:The final losses of multiple ATM thefts last weekend came to more than NT$83m. An internal investigation cleared bank staff of any involvement

By Ted Chen  /  Staff reporter

Investigators collect evidence from an ATM in Taipei yesterday after a large amount of money was stolen from First Commercial Bank machines last weekend.

Photo: CNA

State-run First Commercial Bank (第一銀行) yesterday denied allegations that its employees were involved in last week’s automatic teller machine (ATM) hacking incident, which led to the theft of more than NT$83 million (US$2.5 million).

“An internal probe by the company did not reveal evidence suggesting that the theft was an inside job,” First Commercial Bank president Chou Po-chaio (周伯蕉) said at a news conference following a question-and-answer session with the legislature’s Finance Committee.

The allegations that rogue employees were involved in the hack arose because First Commercial Bank was the only institution targeted among the many banks that use the same Wincor Nixdorf ATM model.

Chou said the company respects prosecutors’ efforts in investigating the case and that it has been cooperating with authorities.

Based on the bank’s latest tallies, suspects involved in the ATM heist had tampered with 41 machines and made off with NT$83.27 million in cash, higher than the NT$70 million it had estimated earlier.

Chou said it took the bank some time to tally losses at ATMs not installed at the bank’s branches, as the process must be conducted with the company’s security and surveillance service provider.

The bank did not attempt to downplay the severity of the heist, he said.

Taipei police on Thursday said they were looking at the possibility that an international organized crime ring was involved in the ATM hacking.

The police said they were tracking down six suspects, most of whom were from Eastern Europe.

There are no Taiwanese on the list of suspects, they said.

The modus operandi was similar to another heist carried out several years ago in Europe by an international organized crime ring, the police said, adding that there is a possibility of a link between the two cases.

The police said two of the suspects — identified only as Russian nationals Berezovskiy, 34, and Berkman, 28 — have already left Taiwan, while a third suspect, whose nationality is not yet known, has also left the nation.

Since no large amounts of cash were found in the luggage of the two Russians at Taiwan’s customs, police believe that the stolen money is in the hands of a Latvian suspect identified as Andrenjes and others who are likely still in Taiwan.

First Commercial Bank said that an internal probe found that the heist was committed without “inserting cards” or “handling the ATMs in any incorrect or illegal way,” but the machines were simply “spitting out” a steady stream of bills.

Chou said suspects had implanted a self-deleting software virus into the ATMs, which has made subsequent forensic investigations more difficult.

However, investigators might be able to find clues from two of the ATMs, as a passerby had alerted bank security of suspicious activity, forcing the suspects to flee before they finished collecting the cash, Chou said.

Chou apologized to the public and reiterated that an internal audit showed that the heist did not affect customers’ deposits and accounts, and that the company would take full responsibility if discrepancies are found.

Additional reporting by CNA

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