The Lord of

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					He had the title, the country house and the white Rolls-Royce. But Hugh Rodley was not all he seemed...

The Lord of

t is one o’ clock on Saturday, October 2, 2004, and the City of London is deathly quiet. Two men—one bearing a laptop, the other sporting a ponytail—arrive at the locked doors of the European headquarters of Japan’s Sumitomo Matsui Banking Corporation. The inside man lets them in, having already adjusted the motion sensors on the CCTV cameras so they won’t be witnessed. Thanks to the same insider, during September “Laptop” and “Ponytail” installed key-logging software on Sumitomo’s PCs. This recorded the passwords and account details of the bank’s customers —information they’re now coming to harvest.


By tim Bouquet
i l l u s t r at e d b y m a r t i n o ’ n e i l l
reader’s digest .


They go to the website of SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, used by 8,000 organisations to transfer cash around the world. With the stolen passwords they access the accounts of Toshiba International, Nomura Asset Management and other major companies—and systematically raid them. Funds are allocated to other banks where accounts have been opened in the names of bogus companies, purporting to trade in everything from computers to vegetable oils. First, £13 million is earmarked for an account in Liechtenstein, then £19 million for banks in Spain; £57 million is set to transfer to accounts in Dubai, including £10 million to clothing firm Laxmi Devi Trading—named after the Hindu goddess of wealth. Further transactions are put in place for Hong Kong, Turkey, Israel and Singapore. Having set up instructions to transfer £229 million out of Sumitomo, the men check the transaction form and press “send”. Then they leave, congratulating themselves on having committed the biggest bank robbery in British history.

complete with paddocks and stables where he keeps the prize-winning Morgan horses that his daughter Natasha has ridden at equestrian events up and down the country. But the big man with a walrus moustache is not necessarily as respectable as he seems. A couple in their sixties from Northern Ireland invested £40,000 in one of his companies selling international phone-card franchises. When it went bust, the couple hired private detectives, who discovered Rodley had set up at least 30 companies—all of which had mysteriously gone under. The husband wrote to him, pleading for their life savings. Rodley’s letter of reply told him, “I intend to expose you as a storyteller and a fraudster.”

October 4, Sumitomo employees saw that their screens were blank and that network cables had been cut or removed. Laptop and Ponytail had calculated that in the several hours it would take to put the system back together, the £229 million would be safely in the destination banks, from where it could be fed in smaller sums to secondary accounts and then laundered. By mid-morning IT staff had the system running. Hundreds of messages, stacked up over the weekend, flooded on to screens. One was from SWIFT and referred to the £229 million: “There has been a coding error. Please confirm transactions are authorised.”


ithin minutes of returning to work on Monday,

Hugh Rodley, 57, steps out of his white Rolls-Royce in front of Tudor Manor, his £2-million home in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, to be greeted by his wife Lady Pamela. The manor, where he gives lavish parties, is set in five acres of grounds,

The thieves had made one minor mistake filling in the form. As a result, the money was still safe in the accounts of Sumitomo’s customers. The bank now had a big decision: keep quiet to avoid damaging its reputation for security or bring in law enforcement to stop the thieves trying the same tactics somewhere else. They made the call.


n his trademark bowler hat and bow tie Lord

works undercover round the world to tackle international fraud, drug running, people smuggling and extortion. When the phone rang just before lunch on October 4, its chief e-crime investigator, who


ritain’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA)

can only be identified as Paul, immediately despatched a team of investigators to Sumitomo. Much of the 50-plus hours of CCTV footage for the weekend was either blank or partially erased. But then the investigators struck lucky: the cameras on the outside of the building had not been tampered with. These showed two men, one with a laptop, the other with a ponytail, being let in by security manager Kevin O’Donoghue. O’Donoghue, 33, had been employed by the bank only since March. At the police station he initially denied having been in the bank when the theft happened. Confronted with the video evidence, though, he changed his story. “I was in a pub when this guy came up and showed me photographs of my mum, brother and wife and said that if I didn’t help those men into the bank they would be ‘got to’.” But investigators found another camera that O’Donoghue had not doctored. It showed him and his visitors laughing as they worked at their keyboards. O’Donoghue refused to identify his visitors until, under pressure, he let slip, “I think they may be Belgians.” And with that, he clammed up again. His telephone records showed he had dialled many Belgian numbers. They would all have to be investigated, which

could take up to 18 months. Paul worried that the thieves would try another bank, but in the meantime all his high-tech crime unit could do was alert police forces and banks around the world to the Sumitomo heist—and hope.



tigators had a call from Emirates Bank International PJSC in Dubai. Two men had tried to transfer nearly £11 million from the account of a clothing company to an account at another bank. They had presented a faxed letter of authority on Sumitomo stationery, but the bank was suspicious. This was not the normal way for so much money to be released. The clothing company’s name was Laxmi Devi Trading. And the £11 million wasn’t there. Paul immediately demanded a copy of the fax, and examined it. The originating number at the top showed that it had been sent to Dubai on Sunday, October 3—the day after the attempted heist—from a photographic shop on Cheltenham high street in Gloucestershire.

hen, on October 12, 2004, inves-

A threeday search of Tudor Manor proved even more revealing

The girl working in the shop helped police create an e-fit of two men. One was large and middle-aged, with a moustache and distinctive bowler hat. The other was shorter and thickset, with a shaven head and goatee beard. More banks opened their doors to SOCA. Another of the accounts intended to benefit from Sumitomo was with Banco Santander in Gran Canaria. The account was for a company called Furzefield and it was meant to receive more than £26 million. Furzefield appeared to have no function other than to receive and disperse money. One of its directors was David Nash, a name that popped up on some other accounts too.

SOCA began covertly investigating everyone with this name in the UK— until they came up with a 42-year-old who ran a sex shop in Soho. He also used the name David Coyne, which appeared on other beneficiary accounts from the attempted Sumitomo robbery. He had previous convictions for burglary, theft, possession and supply of drugs and deception. His travel records showed him visiting Gran Canaria in the summer of 2004, the same time the Furzefield account was opened. And on October 4, he had visited a Spanish bank in the company of two other men and tried to access one of the Sumitomo beneficiary accounts. In March 2006, SOCA agents eventually tracked Nash down to Miami. He was stocky, with a shaven head and goatee beard, and seemed almost relieved to be found. When asked about Furzefield he said he was duped into fronting it. “I was promised cash for being named as a director on this and other companies. I never got it.” He admitted he knew this was part of some bigger plot, yet insisted, “I’m not lilywhite, but to me this is fairyland. How can you walk into any financial institution and come out with that sort of money?” “We were hoping you might tell us,” said one investigator. Nash shrugged. “On October 4, 2004,” the investigator went on, “you visited a bank in Spain with two other men. You went to an account expecting to find millions of pounds, only to find it empty. The Sumitomo money never arrived, did it?” “I was just the driver,” Nash said,

“working on a need-to-know basis.” “Who were the two other men?” “Hugh Rodley and his partner Bernard Davies. It’s Rodley you need to speak to. He’s the architect.” Nash’s allegations were not enough to convict Rodley so SOCA kept quiet and put a tail on him and Davies.

they were to look their best at the summer’s equestrian events. In the sports and leisure section of Harrods, he headed for the extensive range of saddles, hats, breeches and boots. “How will you be paying?” the assistant asked. “Card,” Rodley said, opening his wallet. He pulled out one he had been using a lot recently. “Thank you, Mr Nash,” replied the assistant. Rodley had so far run up credit and store card bills of £27,000 using Nash’s identity.

Lord Rodley had decided that both his daughters needed new riding tack if

Belgian Federal Judicial Police in Brussels. He had seen the CCTV stills from Sumitomo. “The guy with the ponytail is Gilles Poelvoorde. He’s 29, lives between Lille and Antwerp and claims to be a businessman. But he’s on our database in connection with fraud involving fake ID documents.” O’Donoghue’s phone records showed the many times he had called


n July 2006 Paul got a call from a detective in the

Poelvoorde—whose trips to the UK coincided with visits to Sumitomo, revealed by CCTV to date back to September 16, 2004. One travelling companion whose number had also featured regularly on O’Donoghue’s phone was Jan Van Osselaer, a 27-yearold computer technician from the Flanders city of Sint Niklaas. He was the man with the laptop. Detectives dug deeper into Rodley’s activities. Although his name was not listed on any of the bogus companies, he was a frequent visitor to all the cities where they had opened bank accounts. His every move now watched, Rodley was seen meeting a man called Tommy Adams, a member of a notorious gangster family that had made a fortune from drugs and extortion. SOCA officers arrived at Tudor Manor on November 14, 2006, and arrested Lord Rodley. Through hours of questioning he was calm and lucid, insisting all his businesses were legal and that he had no knowledge of the beneficiary accounts. “Tell us about your meeting with Tommy Adams at the Holiday Inn in Finchley on September 23, 2004.” “It was legitimate diamond dealing business,” Rodley replied. But Paul had learned that Poelvoorde had also had a meeting with Tommy Adams. Although Adams was not implicated in Sumitomo, SOCA now had a clear association between Rodley and Poelvoorde.

The judge described the plan as ‘dishonesty on a gigantic scale’

A three-day search of Tudor Manor proved even more revealing. They found company correspondence on a Furzefield letterhead. “I was doing some stationery printing for Nash,” Rodley claimed—but could not explain why he had access to confidential company correspondence. Other paperwork linked him firmly to companies supposedly dealing in property and car parts that had been set up to receive cash from Sumitomo via the beneficiary accounts. But the biggest surprise of all was the analysis of Rodley’s fingerprints: the man with the bowler hat was not an aristocrat at all, but had been born Hugh James McGeough in Ireland in 1947. It was under that name that he had been jailed for 15 months in 1980 for forgery and obtaining goods by misrepresentation. In 1987 he had been convicted on three charges of obtaining property by deception. He had bought Tudor Manor and his lord of the manor title (both legally) with the funds gained from a lifetime as a con man and an expert money-launderer. There was a final twist. On January 16 this year, two days before he was due to stand trial with Rodley and Nash, 74-year-old Bernard Davies committed suicide. In a letter he wrote, “When a partner has done the dirty on you, you put him in the frame.” He did not go into details, but did reveal how the day he took his life Rodley had met him and

Nash at The Volunteer pub in Waltham Abbey, Essex, and had begged them to perjure themselves. “If you put me in the shop sending the fax to Dubai then I’m guilty.” In court Nash confirmed that he and Rodley had sent the fax to Dubai. Rodley, now 61, declined to give evidence. His scam was up.

O’Donoghue had already pleaded guilty. They were sentenced to between three and a half and four and a half years each. David Nash was given three years for conspiracy to transfer criminal property. Hugh Rodley, dubbed the Lord of Fraud, is serving eight years for

Van Osselaer, Poelvoorde (by now in jail in Belgium for another fraud) and

conspiracy to defraud. The prolific con man had smuggled the hackers Laptop and Ponytail into the Japanese bank and was the mastermind who created what was described in court as a “bold and sophisticated” global web of bogus companies and bank accounts to receive the Sumitomo millions. The judge called him the “chief executive” of a scam which was “dishonesty on a gigantic scale”. SOCA has already frozen £1.7 million of Rodley’s assets and further confiscation orders are planned. For 15 years after he leaves prison he will have to submit a detailed breakdown of his assets and income every six months. Any money he cannot account for legitimately will be taken from him.

how to: beat humans’ natural bias and win

l People have a tendency to veer left or right according to their handedness. since the majority of the population are right-handed, go left when rushing to get to a row of ticket windows, say, or get served at a bar. most people will head the other way. l We remember attractive faces more often than ugly ones. so if you want to get away with a crime, make yourself look awful. l don’t be afraid to change your mind in a quiz. most people feel more responsible when their actions, rather than inactions, lead to mistakes so prefer to stick with their first answer. But changes from wrong to right, in one study, outnumbered changes from right to wrong by two to one. l try to make the first bid on a house, eBay item, etc. unless totally ludicrous, the seller and your rival bidders often can’t help themselves making it the amount round which future negotiations revolve. this puts you in pole position to get the sale at the right price. From Errornomics by Joseph Hallinan (Ebury)

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