Kathmandu, November 7
Six Chinese nationals, who were arrested on charge of country’s largest bank heist of August 31 by hacking cash machines, were sent to judicial custody until adjudication of the case by Patan High Court today.
Those who were sent to judicial custody were Lin Jianmeng, 39, Luo Jialei, 40, Zhu Lianggang, 32, Qui Yunging, 30, and Chen Bin, 35 – all Chinese nationals and a French national of Chinese origin Xu Luc Li, 36.
The court sent the accused to judicial custody as prima facie evidence such as confiscated ATM cards, stolen money, CCTV footage captured during the heist, report of digital forensic lab, statement of the accused went against them. The court order passed by commercial bench comprising judges Ram Prasad Oli and Kiran Poudel of Patan High Court read, “As per the prima-facie evidence, it cannot be ruled out that the defendants were not involved in the offence.”
A Nepali national Devnath Lamichhane of Dexo Money Changer was released on bail of three million rupees while two other Nepali nationals Roshan Pradhan Shrestha, operator of Nepalaya Money Changer, and Rewati Dawadi, manager of Nepalaya Money Changer, were released on bail of Rs 2.6 million, each. Police had confiscated Rs 2.99 million from the three Nepali accused.
The government had filed two criminal cases against these three Nepali nationals. They faced charges of acting as accomplices and illegally exchanging foreign currency for the hackers. Although the three accused were released on bail, the court sent them to police custody in the case filed against them under the Foreign Exchange (regularisation) Act, as demanded by police.
The charge-sheet was filed against 12 persons in the case, but remaining three accused, two Chinese and one Nepali, have been absconding. The court asked the government to issue summons to the absconding accused.
A group of eight Chinese nationals in two separate groups had entered the country on August 30 with the sole aim of robbing banks. The biggest cyber heist in Nepal’s banking sector was noticed by a Nabil Bank staff on August 31 when ATM machines, which were filled with cash a day before, ran out of cash the next day. The hackers had used Prabhu Bank’s debit card at Nabil’s ATM machine to withdraw the cash.
Acting on information provided by bank staffers, police first held Zhu from Durbar Marg-based ATM kiosk of Nabil Bank at around 4:30pm, which led to arrest of four others from Maya Manor Boutique Hotel at Hattisar, later the same day.
Police had recovered NRs 12.63 million, $9,108, Chinese RMB 1,191, Euro 250 and Hong Kong dollars 80 from the five Chinese hackers.
Xu, a French passport holder, who had managed to escape when the police raided Maya Manor Boutique Hotel, was arrested from the airport while trying to flee to Malaysia on the night of September 1.
A task force formed by Nepal Rastra Bank to probe the bank heist, had on September 4, reported that amount worth Rs 35.8 million was stolen from ATM machines of different banks in Nepal and India.
The hackers allegedly infiltrated malware into Nepal Electronic Payment System, a shared card switching system of 17 banks, to steal the cash from the ATM machines.
A version of this article appears in print on November 08, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.