Spanish police on Sunday said they had arrested eight people suspected of helping to steal more than $60 million from banks worldwide by hacking into credit card processing firms and withdrawing money from cash machines.
The arrests mark one of the biggest breakthroughs yet outside the United States in connection with a series of global bank heists, coordinated across numerous countries by cells that withdrew millions of dollars in a matter of hours. In a statement, Spanish police said they had detained six Romanian citizens and two Moroccans on the outskirts of Madrid, and seized 25,000 euros in cash as well as around 1,000 blank credit cards, IT material and jewels after several building searches.
The statement said the global hacking gang had been controlled by a single person, who had been arrested in Germany.
The Spanish police said in the statement that they had acted with the help of an unnamed US security agency.
Six Romanian citizens and two Moroccans were arrested in Madrid
“The bulk of the organization based in Spain was dismantled when it was starting to regroup to carry out an attack similar to previous ones, in various European Union countries and in Japan,” the police said.
They added that the ringleader was an IT expert who hacked into the databases used by credit card processing firms and could modify security settings, including PIN number restrictions and withdrawal limits, before getting cells worldwide to fake credit cards using the information.
Spanish police explained on Sunday that during a prior raid in February connected to this latest bust authorities discovered that 446 withdrawals took place in Madrid during that month, with the Spanish-based arm of the ring obtaining $400,000 in a heist totaling $40 million. They did not confirm which banks had been involved.
Previous raids had involved withdrawals in other Spanish cities, and global takings by the crime ring amounted to over $60 million, the police said.