Hushpuppi Laundered Funds For North Korean Hackers, Says US Department Of Justice
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is accusing the Nigerian socialite of being part of a network that made “hundreds of millions of dollars” from business email compromise frauds and other scams.
In June 2020, the 37-year-old known for flaunting his wealthy lifestyle on Instagram, was jointly arrested special operatives of Emerati police and American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Dubai.
He was apprehended alongside his partner, Olalekan Ponle ‘Woodberry’, and were extradited to the US to face trial for alleged crime.
Read Also: Hushpuppi And Woodberry Extradited To US
FBI, according to an affidavit, alleged that Hushpuppi financed his opulent lifestyle through dubious means, which his counsel has denied.
He is alleged to be the leader of a mafia that facilitates computer intrusion, Business Email Compromise (BEC) fraud and money laundering.
The agency said Hushpuppi’s targeted victims, majorly in the US, had been defrauded of over $168 billion, including one scheme to steal £100 million (approximately $124 million) from an English Premier League soccer club.
In July 2020, Abbas alongside Olalekan Ponle, popularly known as Woodberry, was extradited to Chicago in the United States where he was first arraigned.
However, because the US Court in Illinois does not have jurisdiction over the case, he was transferred to Los Angeles, a city in California, where his trial commence.
Amid the ongoing trial, the Department of Justice this week shed more light on one of the scams Hushpuppi is allegedly involved in.
They stated that Hushpuppi worked with three North Korean hackers to launder funds stolen from a bank in Malta.
According to a statement released by DoJ, Hushpuppi took part in a “North Korean-perpetrated cyber-enabled heist from a Maltese bank in February 2019.”
In a July statement, DoJ referred to the attack as “a $14.7 million cyber-heist from a foreign financial institution.” Both the date and amount match that of the attack on Malta’s Bank of Valletta in February 2019.
Back then, Hushpuppi’ lawyer Gal Pissetzky, before he resigned, declared that his client was not guilty of the charges.
He described his client as “an entrepreneur” who made his money legitimately through “real estate” and his work “promoting brands” as an “Instagram personality.”
Hushpuppi, with more than 2.5 million followers on Instagram, has built a global following by posting pictures of his lavish spending on cars, watches, designer clothes and private jets.
His criminal trial was due to be heard in late 2020, before the pandemic forced a delay.
Hushpuppi’s name has now emerged among details of a larger international criminal conspiracy involving North Korean military hackers.
Accoridng to DOJ statement on the new indictment, the hackers are involved in;
A series of destructive cyberattacks, to steal and extort more than $1.3 billion of money and cryptocurrency from financial institutions and companies.
FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate in the statement said that Wednesday’s unsealed indictment expands FBI’s 2018 charges for the “unprecedented cyberattacks conducted by the North Korean regime.”
In addition, Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers of Justice Department’s National Security Division stated;
As laid out in today’s indictment, North Korea’s operatives, using keyboards rather than guns, stealing digital wallets of cryptocurrency instead of sacks of cash, are the world’s leading bank robbers.
US is specifically accusing North Koreans Jon Chang Hyok, 31, Kim Il, 27, and Park Jin Hyok, 36, of being members of Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB), a military intelligence agency of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
The three North Koreans are described in the statement as being connected to “North Korean military hacking units” known in the cybersecurity community as Lazarus Group and Advanced Persistent Threat 38 (APT38).
Hushpuppi is linked to one specific part of the “broad array of criminal cyber activities undertaken by the conspiracy,” namely money laundering and the attack on a “foreign financial institution”.
A spokesperson for Bank of Valletta confirmed that it was the target of a cyber incident in February 2019.
The socialite was linked to the North Korean conspiracy this week when federal prosecutors unsealed a charge against Ghaleb Alaumary, 37, of Ontario, Canada.
Alaumary pled guilty to charges related to his role as a money launderer for the North Korean group filed in November 2020.
DoJ connected Hushpuppi to North Korean hackers through Alaumary, who they allege “conspired” with “Ray Hushpuppi,” to “launder funds from a North Korean-perpetrated cyber-enabled heist from a Maltese bank in February 2019.”
The attack, although largely unsuccessful, was of such seriousness in Malta that the country’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was forced to address parliament in 2019 over what the Times of Malta described as the “creation of false international payments that saw €13 million transferred to banks in four countries.”
The amounts were reportedly “traced” and “reversed” and none of the bank’s customers lost their money.