'Lord' Hugh Rodley, a "serial conman" who tried to extract £229 million from a Japanese bank in London, was yesterday jailed for eight years.
Rodley, who bought himself a title and lived as an aristocrat, almost pulled off the world's largest theft along with his team of hired Belgian hackers and international money launderers.
Sentencing the gang at Snaresbrook crown court, east London, Judge Martyn Zeidman, QC, told Rodley, of Gloucestershire, "You have lived a life of luxury in a mansion ... and you have given yourself the trappings of wealth and delusions of grandeur." Rodley was convicted of conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to transfer criminal property.
Accomplice David Nash, a Soho sex shop owner, was convicted of helping Rodley attempt to transfer the cash abroad and was given three years in prison. Nash, 47, of Durrington, West Sussex, had "fronted" several bank accounts, the court heard.
Kevin O'Donoghue, of Birmingham, the bank's security supervisor and 'inside man' for the heist, was sentenced to four years and four months in jail, computer expert Jan Van Osselaer, 32, was given three-and-a-half years and his colleague Gilles Poelvoorde, 35, four years.
Another defendant, Rodley's 74-year-old business partner Bernard Davies, committed suicide two days before the trial began. A note was read to the court in which he said he had "lost the will to live" after receiving death threats from an underworld figure because he would not reveal Rodley's and Nash's whereabouts.
The gang targeted Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation. A mistake in filling in the electronic forms used in the Swift payments transfer system was the only error the gang made, the trial had been told. They were tracked down by the Serious Organised Crime Agency.
Gang members had installed spyware on computers at the London offices of Sumitomo Mitsui bank in order to steal money from big business accounts. Rodley, 61, who lived in Tewkesbury and was described as the "chief executive", had teamed up with a gang of internet thieves to target the bank back in 2004.
Donoghue had unlocked the Japanese bank's London offices so the gang could make "surreptitious" visits at night, the jury was told. He also tampered with CCTV equipment so that the presence of Belgian computer expert Osselaer and his "recruiter", Frenchman Poelvoorde, would not be caught on camera.
Osselaer and Poelvoorde then used software to corrupt the bank's computer system, record the keystrokes of staff and reveal user names and passwords. That gave them access to the holdings of major companies like Toshiba International, Nomura Asset Management and Sumitomo Chemical UK.
The "bold and sophisticated" plot was only foiled at the 11th hour by the complexities of inter-bank money transfers, the court heard. The gang made several attempts to electronically transfer up to £12.5 million at a time around the world, but were unsuccessful because of "field logging errors".
The plot was discovered when staff returned to work after the weekend and realised their computers were not working properly. Then they found a number of network cables had been "taken out".
Sentencing the men, Judge Zeidman, said, "In the old days the villain would break down the door of the bank, go in and simply take the money. Nowadays a different technique is applied... but the principle is exactly the same. There was dishonesty on a gigantic scale and if it had been successful, as it easily could have been, it would have occasioned huge losses. In the event, because of a minor piece of carelessness, the operation failed."
Sumitomo Mitsui claimed that its systems and controls had prevented the fraud's success and that at no point were customer accounts at risk.