3 Nepalis among 4 more arrested for cyber heist

Kathmandu, September 2

Police have arrested a French national of Chinese origin and three Nepalis in connection with the country’s biggest cyber heist in the banking sector committed by Chinese nationals to steal millions of rupees from ATMs.

Xu Luc Li, 36, was arrested from Tribhuvan International Airport last night, while the Nepali nationals — operator of Dexo Money Changer Bednath Lamichhane, operator of Nepalaya Money Changer Roshan Pradhan Shrestha and Manager of Nepalaya Money Changer Rewati Dawadi — were arrested today for allegedly giving foreign currency to the hackers in exchange for the looted money. The three money changers are based in Thamel.

Nepali nationals have been charged with playing the role of accomplices in the bank heist.

The operators of money exchange services had handed over  $25,862  to Xu on Saturday night, after the heist, in exchange for Rs 3 million of the looted money. Police have recovered this amount from Xu.

Police claim that they have successfully recovered almost all the money stolen from at least six Nepali banks.

Along with Rs 12.63 million recovered from five Chinese arrested on Saturday, police also confiscated foreign currency — $9,108,  1,191 Chinese RMB, 250 euros and 80 Hong Kong dollars — from the five hackers.

Xu, who holds a French passport, was arrested while trying to flee to Malaysia. He had already obtained the boarding pass of Malaysian Airlines.

Xu and seven Chinese nationals were members of two groups that entered Nepal on August 30, a day before the heist.

With the arrest of Xu, six out of eight persons who were directly involved in the heist have been arrested from Kathmandu. Two hackers are still at large.

On   August 31, after  the heist, Xu had managed to escape from Hattisar-based Maya Manor Boutique Hotel when police raided the hotel. Police say Xu used to be close to one of the

absconders who led the two teams. Deputy Superintendent of Police HobindraBogati of Metropolitan Police Range, Teku, said, “Xu had shared the hotel room with the leader of one of the two groups.”

Lack of advanced forensic lab has hindered authorities’ efforts to find out how, and from where, the hacking of banks’ digital information system was conducted.  The NRB, in coordination with NEPS, is in the process of hiring forensic experts from Singapore to do the job.