Friday 30 September 2016

Uzbek receptionist at luxury Thai resort accused by FBI of aiding €26m hack

Published 02/08/2016 | 21:12

Olga Komova documented her glamorous lifestyle on social media CREDIT: FLICKR
Olga Komova documented her glamorous lifestyle on social media CREDIT: FLICKR

It has all the trappings of a Cold War thriller. A Russian-speaking femme fatale is tracked down to a tropical paradise resort by American spies, accused of being at the heart of an international multi-million dollar criminal syndicate.

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But that is the reality for Olga Komova, a glamorous 25-year-old from Uzbekistan, who was arrested by police at Thailand’s four-star Emerald Cove Koh Chang Hotel last month, where she worked as a receptionist and guest liaison.

She is accused by the FBI of helping a Russia-based hacking network to steal and launder €26m from British and American bank accounts.

Described by guests at her hotel as “pleasant and professional” and “very efficient”, she allegedly led a double life, using multiple bank accounts, credit and debit cards in Thailand to receive the stolen funds.

Olga Komova documented her glamorous lifestyle on social media CREDIT: FLICKR
Olga Komova documented her glamorous lifestyle on social media CREDIT: FLICKR

Ms Komova was arrested by Thai police and presented to local media on July 21 along with Dmitry Ukrainskiy, a 44-year-old Russian who runs multiple tourist yacht charter businesses in Pattaya, and is reportedly a friend and former business partner of Ms Komova’s father.

FBI agents investigating the cyber thefts from American bank accounts over the course of two years traced the transactions to at least 40 accounts in Thailand owned by the pair, and requested the arrests, Thai police officials said.

More than 50 people from Britain, the US, Australia, Italy, Germany and Japan had fallen prey to the network, which sent emails containing malware to gain usernames and passwords of victims' online bank accounts, officials said.

The pair, believed to have operated at the heart of the purported hacking network, have both been indicted and face money laundering charges in the US, MailOnline reported.

Born in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent, Ms Komova moved to Thailand immediately after studying languages at university to work in tourism.

According to her LinkedIn profile, she started out as a tour guide in the seedy resort city of Pattya, before progressing to a job as guest relations officer at a luxury Seychelles resort. She returned to Thailand last October.

She remains in custody and has not yet commented on the allegations against her. Mr Ukrainskiy, her co-accused, “flatly denies” the claims made against him, according to a spokesman for the Russian prosecutor-general’s office.

Surachet Hakpal, Thailand’s tourist police commander, told journalists that the suspects will be extradited to the US for trial.

Olga Komova documented her glamorous lifestyle on social media CREDIT: FLICKR
Olga Komova documented her glamorous lifestyle on social media CREDIT: FLICKR

However, Russia has launched a diplomatic campaign to block Mr Ukrainskiy’s deportation. Sergei Ryabkov, the deputy foreign minister, accused the US of “extrajudicial and illegal abductions of other countries’ nationals”, describing the latest extradition request as “categorically inadmissible”.

Thailand is considered a “major money laundering country” by the US State Department, which warns that “proceeds of illegal gaming, official corruption, underground lotteries, and prostitution are laundered through the country’s financial system”.

Telegraph.co.uk

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