Page last updated at 11:22 GMT, Friday, 3 July 2009 12:22 UK

Billions stolen in online robbery

Screenshot from Eve Online, Atari
Eve Online is about the struggle between giant corporations

Space trading game Eve Online has suffered a virtual version of the credit crunch.

One of the game's biggest financial institutions lost a significant chunk of its deposits as a huge theft started a run on the bank.

One of the bank's controllers stole about 200bn kredits and swapped them for real world cash of £3,115.

As news of the theft spread, many of the bank's customers rushed to remove their virtual cash.

Space scandal

The theft from EBank took place in early June but only now have details emerged about the amount of money stolen and why it was taken.

The theft was carried out by EBank's chief executive, a player known as Ricdic, now known to be a 27-year-old Australian who works in the technology industry. His full identity has not been revealed save that his first name is Richard.

The stolen kredits amounted to 8% of the 2.6tn that Ebank had in its virtual vaults.

"Basically this character was one of the people who had been running EBank for a while. He took a bunch of (virtual) money out of the bank, and traded it away for real money," Ned Coker, of Icelandic company CCP which runs Eve, told the Reuters news agency.

Eve Online has about 300,000 players all of whom inhabit the same online universe. The game revolves around trade, mining asteroids and the efforts of different player-controlled corporations to take control of swathes of virtual space.

It has now emerged that Ricdic used the cash to put down a deposit on a house and to pay medical bills.

"I'm not proud of it at all, that's why I didn't brag about it," Ricdic told Reuters. "But you know, if I had to do it again, I probably would've chosen the same path based on the same situation."

Ricdic has now been thrown out of the game as trading in-game cash for real money is against Eve Online's terms and conditions.

The rules governing play within Eve would not have sanctioned Ricdic if he had simply stolen the cash and used it in the game, nor if he had bought kredits with real dollars.

The scandal is not the first to play out in Eve Online. In early 2009 one of the game's biggest corporations, called Band of Brothers, was brought down by industrial espionage.

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