An Instagram influencer linked to a €13 million cyber heist on Bank of Valletta has been jailed for more than 11 years in the US.
Ramon Abbas, known as Hushpuppi, was also ordered to pay some €1.7million in compensation to victims.
He is the second man involved in the hack to be jailed. Ghaleb Alaumary, 36, was also jailed for 11 years last year by a California court.
Abbas was arrested in June 2020 at his Dubai apartment and handed over to FBI agents who charged him with hacking and money laundering crimes, which cost victims some €24 million.
BOV is understood to be one of the hacker’s main victims after the bank’s IT systems were breached in 2019. The heist had forced BOV to temporarily take its services offline.
According to Don Alway, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles field office, Abbas had become "one of the most prolific money launderers in the world".
"Abbas leveraged his social media platforms... to gain notoriety and to brag about the immense wealth he acquired by conducting business email compromise scams, online bank heists and other cyber-enabled fraud that financially ruined scores of victims and provided assistance to the North Korean regime," Alway said on Monday.
Bragged about immense wealth
According to an FBI’s sworn statement presented in the California District Court, Abbas and another person “conspired to launder funds intended to be stolen through fraudulent wire transfers from a foreign financial institution, in which fraudulent wire transfers totalling approximately €13 million were sent to bank accounts around the world in February 2019.”
In May 2019, BOV said it had recovered €10 million of the total sum.
Earlier this year, a further six people were arrested in Northern Ireland in connection with the heist.
The UK's National Crime Agency had said hackers were able to access BOV systems and move the money into foreign accounts before some of the cash was spent on high-end goods including Rolex watches and exotic cars.
“Abbas bragged on social media about his lavish lifestyle – a lifestyle funded by his involvement in transnational fraud and money laundering conspiracies targeting victims around the world,” said US Attorney Martin Estrada.
He said he had bragged about the immense wealth he acquired by conducting business email compromise scams, online bank heists and other cyber-enabled fraud that financially ruined scores of victims and provided assistance to the North Korean regime.
“This significant sentence is the result of years’ worth of collaboration among law enforcement in multiple countries and should send a clear warning to international fraudsters that the FBI will seek justice for victims, regardless of whether criminals operate within or outside United States borders,” he added.
The FBI investigated this matter as part of Operation Top Dog.