Court gives ATM heist suspects five years in prison

Taipei-- The Taipei District Court on Wednesday sentenced three suspects in the theft of more than NT$80 million (US$2.56 million) from First Bank ATMs in July 2016 to five years in prison each and fined them NT$600,000.

Prosecutors said they respected the court's decision and will decide whether to file an appeal, after the sentence fell far short of the jail time they had sought.

The three suspects did not immediately comment on the verdict but had previously said they would appeal it if found guilty.

Peregudovs Andrejs from Latvia, the alleged mastermind behind the bank heist, Romanian Colibaba Mihail and Moldovan Niklae Penkov were indicted in September 2016 on charges of stealing more than NT$83.27 million from First Bank ATMs around July 10 last year.

The three, who have been detained by police in Taiwan since their arrest on July 17, 2016, were charged with fraud and offenses against computer security, according to the Taipei District Prosecutors Office, which sought a 12-year prison term for each suspect.

A total of 22 suspects from six countries were involved in the high-profile ATM theft, and the 19 suspects who fled the country before being apprehended have been put on a wanted list, according to prosecutors.

The heist occurred between July 9 and July 11 last year when members of the international ring withdrew money from 51 First Bank ATMs in Taipei, New Taipei and Taichung after using malware to hack into the bank's computer system.

The theft came to light when members of the public in Taipei alerted police after seeing two members of the ring collect cash being dispensed by an ATM in the middle of the night.

Those who made the withdrawals were able to leave the country. Colibaba, Penkov and Peregudovs entered Taiwan later than the others to recover the money and get it out of Taiwan.

Police were able to track down Colibaba and Penkov and recovered NT$60.24 million of the stolen cash from their hotel room following their arrest.

Based on information provided by Peregudovs, police found a bag containing NT$12.63 million on a hill near Xihu Park in Taipei's Neihu District on July 20, 2016.

Also on July 20, a man surnamed Ko handed to police another bag containing NT$4.54 million that he discovered earlier that day at the same site.

Nearly NT$5.79 million of the stolen cash is still unaccounted for.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel