The great cyber heist
An intricate cyber crime attack that went undetected for days and culminated over a weekend enabled a criminal syndicate to siphon off millions of rands from a Road Traffic Management Corporation bank account.
Allegedly using hi-tech computer software to steal the money - which includes millions of rands in fines paid by motorists - the five suspects embarked on a three-day shopping spree across Gauteng.
For days they splurged, spending R8.7-million before being arrested.
Luxury jewellery, his-and-her watches, millions of rands in foreign currencies, high-end clothing, shoes and luggage, consumer electronics, casino entertainment, cellphones, computers, lavish restaurant meals and airline tickets were bought and used by the syndicate to allegedly launder their loot.
Their spending spree took place at upmarket Gauteng attractions such as Sandton's Nelson Mandela Square, and the Gold Reef City, Monte Casino and Carnival City casinos.
Where the money went:
- R25000 on Apple computer products;
- R6-million on watches, diamonds and emeralds;
- R6000 on SAA tickets; and
- R50000 on sound systems.
According to investigators, the syndicate hacked into the Road Traffic Management Corporation account after rogue insiders installed key-logging hardware on computers used for online banking.
These key-loggers gave the syndicate access to online banking passwords and user names.
The syndicate, said to comprise a husband and wife team and at least three others, accessed the corporation's First National Bank account and transferred funds to bank accounts across the country.
The elaborate cyber crime, which the police believe involves employees of foreign exchange dealers agencies and banks, was discovered last month when an alert employee noticed the missing funds and notified management.
Now investigators have begun to unravel the extent of the crime.
The married couple, Darius and Janene Rhoda, allegedly planned to flee to Mozambique with the loot they had exchanged for US dollars and euros.
Police have discovered that the syndicate moved R8.7-million in 21 transfers using Nedbank, Standard Bank and FNB accounts. The money was then transferred a further 29 times to secondary accounts.
"Their network is huge. This was well planned. They have allegedly spent months setting up their different bank accounts.
"Their bank account system is like a tree's roots, spread out everywhere, linking members with other members through friends and family," a police source said.
Ten days ago the police pounced after tracing the suspects through bank accounts and CCTV footage.
The Rhodas were arrested in Centurion, near Pretoria, and their co-accused, Michael Tsegofatso Kekana, Kagiso Matsimela, and Ishmael Mathabathe Sathekge, were arrested at their homes in Mamelodi and Soshanguve, in Pretoria.
All five are out on R2000 bail each.
According to Hawks spokesman Paul Ramaloko, the five are facing charges of fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, forgery and contravention of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act.
They appeared in the Pretoria Commercial Crimes Court this week.
Ramaloko said that after the crime was detected detectives from the Electronic Crimes Unit and the Digital Forensic Laboratory, and officials from the affected banks, began tracing the accounts and freezing them.
"It was established that false bank accounts were opened with false identity documents, false cellphone details and false proofs of residence. The money was withdrawn or spent with the sole purpose of laundering it."
Ramaloko said: "During the investigation the police seized computers and cellphones of corporation employees whose accounts were hacked. After imaging the devices, the extent of the hacking was discovered.
"Investigators seized three key loggers, which were found hidden in various offices of the Road Traffic Management Corporation."
More arrests are expected.
The Road Traffic Management Corporation did not respond to requests for comment.