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Cops nab accomplice in Austrian ‎€50m caper

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Cops nab accomplice in Austrian ‎€50m caper
Disgraced CEO Walter Stephan. Photo: Facebook/FACC
12:52 CEST+02:00
Police in Hong Kong have arrested an alleged accomplice who is believed to be involved in the scam which cost an Austrian aerospace company over 42 million euros.

According to a press briefing from Austrian police on Friday, a 32-year-old Chinese national was arrested in Hong Kong on July 1st after money was traced to a bank account linked to the attack.

Known as the "fake president scam", the perpetrator was able to penetrate the email system of FACC, a respected Austrian plane parts company.  The email hack was then used to send a series of requests to the Chief Financial Officer, instructing him to transfer tens of millions of euros to accounts in other countries.

As a consequence of the losses, the firm's CEO Walter Stephan was fired by the board in May, along with its Chief Financial Officer, who authorized the wiring of the money.

The Chinese man is believed to be involved in the laundering of the money from the robbery, having allegedly received 4 million euros from the total amount lost.

A spokesman for FACC said that the company was working on recovering 10 million of the total losses, leaving another 42 million as yet untraced.

FACC, whose customers include Airbus, Boeing and Rolls-Royce, said that its supervisory board sacked Walter Stephan with immediate effect in May, after he "severely violated his duties". 

Press reports said that in January a FACC employee wired around €50 million, equivalent to almost 10 percent of annual revenues, after receiving emailed instructions from someone posing as Stephan.

By the time the firm, which began life making skis before expanding into aeronautics, realised the mistake, it was too late. The money had disappeared in Slovakia and Asia, according to the Standard newspaper.

The company said in May that the scam, also known as "bogus boss" or "CEO fraud" and increasingly popular with sophisticated organised criminals, cost it €41.9 million in its 2015/16 business year.

It has managed to claw back €10.9 million, it said, but still posted a pretax loss of €23.4 million. In February the company also sacked its finance chief because of the slip-up.

They was no suggestion that either executive was involved in the scam. An independent expert stated that the fired executives had failed in their fiduciary duties, and had not put in place appropriate financial controls to frustrate such a fraud attempt.

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