Page last updated at 15:49 GMT, Thursday, 5 March 2009

'Lord' jailed for 229m bank plot

Lord Hugh Rodley
The plot failed because of a "minor piece of carelessness" the judge said

A bogus peer who led a "sophisticated" plot to steal 229m from a Japanese bank has been jailed for eight years.

"Lord" Hugh Rodley, of Gloucestershire, who bought his title and lived in a manor house, was convicted of conspiracy charges dating back to 2004.

Gang members had installed spyware on computers at the London offices of Sumitomo Mitsui bank in order to steal money from big business accounts.

Four other men were jailed for between three and four years.

Rodley, 61, who lived in Tewkesbury and was described as the "chief executive", had teamed up with a gang of internet thieves to target the bank.

The "bold and sophisticated" plot was only foiled at the 11th hour by the complexities of inter-bank money transfers, the court heard.

Bank insider and security supervisor Kevin O'Donoghue, 34, of Birmingham was jailed for four years, four months after admitting conspiracy to steal at Snaresbrook Crown Court.

He had unlocked the Japanese bank's London offices so the gang could make "surreptitious" visits at night, the jury was told.

There was dishonesty on a gigantic scale and if it had been successful... it would have occasioned huge losses
Judge Martyn Zeidman QC

He also tampered with CCTV equipment in a bid to avoid the presence of Belgian computer expert Jan Van Osselaer, 32, and his "recruiter", Frenchman Gilles Poelvoorde, 35 being caught on camera.

Osselaer and Poelvoorde then used software to corrupt the bank's computer system, record the keystrokes of staff and reveal user names and passwords, jurors were told.

That gave them access to the holdings of major companies like Toshiba International, Nomura Asset Management and Sumitomo Chemical UK.

'Death threats'

They made several attempts to electronically transfer up to 12.5m at a time around the world, but were unsuccessful because of "field logging errors".

The plot was discovered when staff returned to work after the weekend and realised their computers were not working properly.

Then they found a number of network cables had been "taken out".

Sentencing the men, Judge Martyn Zeidman QC, said: "In the old days the villain would break down the door of the bank, go in and simply take the money.

Hugh Rodley, 61, of Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, guilty of conspiracies to defraud and to transfer criminal property
David Nash, 47, from Durrington, West Sussex, guilty of conspiracy to transfer criminal property
Kevin O'Donoghue, 34, of Minstead Road, Birmingham, admitted conspiracy to steal
Jan Van Osselaer, 32, of Belgium, admitted conspiracy to steal
Gilles Poelvoorde, 35, of France, admitted conspiracy to steal

"Nowadays a different technique is applied... but the principle is exactly the same.

"There was dishonesty on a gigantic scale and if it had been successful, as it easily could have been, it would have occasioned huge losses.

"In the event, because of a minor piece of carelessness, the operation failed."

Rodley was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to transfer criminal property between 1 January and 5 October 2004.

Soho sex shop owner David Nash, 47, from Durrington, West Sussex, was jailed for three years for his role in the plot.

Woman cleared

He had been used by Rodley to front accounts into which the funds would have been channelled, the trial heard.

Judge Zeidman said he had tried to "hide behind others" and "pull the wool over the eyes of this jury".

Osselaer received three-and-a-half years while Poelvoorde got four after they admitted conspiracy to steal.

Swedish national Inger Malmros, 58, who lives in Gran Canaria, was cleared of both counts.

She had told the court she knew nothing of two instructions - allegedly from her firm - concerning the planned transfer of some of Sumitomo's cash.

A seventh defendant, Rodley's 74-year-old business partner Bernard Davies, committed suicide two days before the trial began.

A note was read to the court in which he said he had "lost the will to live" after receiving death threats from an underworld figure because he would not reveal Rodley's and Nash's whereabouts.

Sumitomo Mitsui said its systems and controls had prevented the fraud's success and that at no point were customer accounts at risk.

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