Romanian police in cyber-crime gang takedown

The Romanian police have busted an alleged cyber-crime gang, raiding 42 homes across the country and arresting 25 people.

According to the DIOCT (Directorate for Investigating Organised Crime and Terrorism) in Bucharest, officers from the Brigade for Combating Organised Crime and the Romanian Gendarmerie searched homes in six cities in an attempt to dismantle a group accused of committing computer crime and money laundering.

Authorities allege that between February and December 2013, a group of 52 Romanians and foreign citizens carried out more than 34,000 fraudulent cash withdrawals in 24 countries, netting more than £10 million.

The gang targeted US banks in Puerto Rico and Omani banks in Muscat. Romanian police said the group broke IT security to obtain the details of corporate clients. The details were then used to clone credit cards which were distributed to members of the gang.

The withdrawals were timed to occur when the banks were closed, with cash being taken out simultaneously from ATMs in Japan, Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium and Romania.

On 20 February 2013, it's alleged that the gang withdrew £6 million from ATMs in Japan, while later that year on 2 December, the gang is said to have withdrawn a further £3 million from ATMs in 15 cities.

During house searches in Romania, police said they found 16 laptops and mobile phones connected to the crimes, 2kg in gold ingots, paintings and €150,000 in cash. They also froze assets associated with the leaders of the gang.

The Romanian government is working with partners in Europe and the United States to combat cyber-crime. According Duane Butcher, the United States' Chargé d'affaires to Romania, the US and Romania enjoy a close working relationship on policing matters, including the Romanian/FBI Cyber Task Force, established in 2006.

“As a result of joint Romanian-US investigations, including with the FBI and the US Secret Service, more than 100 people are arrested or charged in the US and Romania each year,” Butcher said in 2013.  

The Romanian town of Râmnicu Vâlcea has been described by the Daily Mail as the cyber-crime capital of the world.