Nine suspects in ATM heist have left Taiwan: police

07/16/2016 07:47 PM
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Photo courtesy of Criminal Investigation Division of Taipei City Police Department
Photo courtesy of Criminal Investigation Division of Taipei City Police Department

Taipei, July 16 (CNA) At least 11 suspects were involved in the recent theft of more than NT$80 million (US$2.51 million) from First Bank's automatic teller machines in Taiwan, and nine of them have left Taiwan, police said Saturday.

Police said they are now tracking down the suspects thought to still be in Taiwan and the whereabouts of the stolen cash, which is also believed to be in the country because no large sums of cash were detected in the suspects' luggage when they left Taiwan.

The suspects took NT$83 million from the bank's ATMs on July 9 and 10 with the help of malware, and then nine of them left Taiwan for Moscow, Dubai and Turkey via Hong Kong on July 11 and 12.

Police said all of the foreign suspects -- six Russians, three Romanians and one Latvian -- came to Taiwan on a tourist visa, and of the 10, only the Latvian is believed to still be on the island.

At least one Taiwanese national is also suspected of being in on the heist.

After the arrival of the 10 foreign suspects, they used Google Maps to pinpoint the coordinates of the bank branches with the targeted ATMs, police said.

They then used the software What's App to report the serial number of the ATM machine they were about to rob to the plan's mastermind in Moscow. That individual then locked on to the machine and used the malware to get the ATMs to "spit" out bills, police have said.

It was the first such ATM heist of this type in Taiwan.

According to police, three of the suspects checked into the Grand Hyatt Taipei to target First Bank's branches in the city, while three others checked into the Imperial Hotel to focus on the bank's branches in Wanhua and Zhongzheng districts.

Another three checked into the Sunrise Business Hotel in Taipei, and some of the suspects were in charge of robbing First Bank ATMs in Taichung in central Taiwan, police said.

The suspects rented a car, but they got around mostly by taxi, according to police.

Law enforcement authorities eventually found the Ford the suspects rented and collected fingerprints to verify the identities of the suspects and see if they had other accomplices.

Police also discovered that the suspects had conversations with a Taiwanese on the cell phones they used and believe the Taiwanese could be a guide or an underground money broker.

(By Liu Chien-pang and Lilian Wu)

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