A Russian national, Farid Essebar, who allegedly hacked and duplicated bank website pages to dupe 1,000 people of US$4 billion (S$5 billion), has been arrested in Thailand, a senior official at the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) said yesterday.
The 27-year-old Moroccan-ethnic suspect went by the online screen name "Diabl0".
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested him and an accomplice when he was 18 years old for unleashing the "Zotob" computer worm to hack information. He served one year in prison.
Pol Colonel Songsak Raksaksakul, director of the DSI Bureau of Foreign Affairs and Transnational Crime, said that after a request by Swiss police, his agency joined forces with the Immigration Police and the Office of the Attorney-General.
They launched an investigation into some 10 Russian and Moroccan nationals on suspicion of hacking activities.
The Thai authorities' probe found that Essebar and two other gang members had lain low in Thailand for three to four years.
They allegedly hacked into computer systems to set up phoney bank front pages and used the victims' personal information on the Internet banking system to reserve accommodation and flights.
The gang's actions caused US$4 billion (S$5 billion) in damages to some 1,000 people in Europe, Songsak said. The DSI followed Essebar for two years before the Criminal Court approved his arrest warrant, he said. Essebar would be extradited to Switzerland within 90 days.
Songsak said Essebar was listed on Wikipedia as a computer criminal who also hacked many media websites and was wanted by the FBI.
He said Essebar spent money on luxuries and travel but had no gambling habits. He reportedly had some property in Thailand.