A group of Chinese hackers has committed a clever cyber heist which affected the Indian branch of an Italian company, Tecnimont SpA. The hackers sent a group of emails to the head of the company’s Indian branch pretending to be the Pierroberto Folgiero, the CEO of Tecnimont, according to a police complaint filed to the Mumbai Police’s cybercrime unit, reviewed by ET.
The fraudsters convinced the Indian management of the company that they required money for “secretive” and “highly confidential” acquisition in China and conducted a series of conference calls to convince the company. A well-executed drama by the fraudsters included various people pretending to be the CEO, a top Switzerland-based lawyer and other senior executives of the company, according to the complaint submitted by Tecnimont Pvt Ltd.
The plot thickened as the hackers told the India head that money couldn’t be transferred from Italy due to regulatory pressures. The India head transferred money in three transactions to banks in Hong Kong says the report. The amount was immediately withdrawn upon transfer. The Chinese cons attempted a fourth transfer but the hoax had already been laid bare by then. The missing funds were noticed when Tecnimont SpA chairman Franco Ghiringhelli visited the Indian arm of the company in December.
The sources familiar with the matter said that the writing style of the email was similar to the group chairman. Other communication also followed writing styles of various executives which suggests that hackers must have infiltrated the company’s internal IT system to read their emails. This implies that the perpetrators had a masterplan which was executed with style and perfection that gained them close to $20 million.
The company has fired the India head, according to the complaint filed with the Mumbai police.
The report stated that a forensic investigation was being carried out by the company. Also MZM legal, a fraud investigation company, was assisting with the investigation.
“This is a very serious case of electronic fraud by a very highly skilled group of international criminals working with high-end technology. We are working with the Mumbai Cyber Cell to investigate the matter and get to the bottom of this,” said Zulfiquar Memon, managing partner of MZM Legal.
A formal inquiry conducted by the company revealed that all the conference calls originated from fake IDs. Also, the bank accounts to which the money was transferred was opened with fake documents. The plaintiff has launched a complaint against six entities including the alleged banks in Hong Kong and unknown email account holders.
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