Multi-million data breach and fraud trial to get under way in Sweden

A startup, four banks and a superstore are understood to be among a number of organizations hit by a Swedish hacking and fraud attack that has now led to trial.

Multi-million data breach and fraud trial to get under way in Sweden
The police press conference on Monday. Photo: Emil Langvad/TT

Swedish prosecutors declined to reveal the exact number of suspected victims in the case.

“There are more companies and authorities affected, but the charges cover those in the charge sheet. We selected the most clear-cut cases early on,” investigator Helena Ljunggren told a press conference on Monday.

Eight people face trial in connection with the case, which involves at least 40 million kronor ($5 million). 

The main suspect's lawyer, Jan-Anders Hybelius, told the TT news agency that his client admits several of the fraud allegations, but claims that he acted on other people's instructions: “The money did not go to him. His financial compensation was very modest, the way I see it.”

His 38-year-old client is the only one who is accused of data breach attacks, which he denies. The other seven are accused of having been involved to varying extents in the fraud incidents, according to Ljunggren.

In most cases the data breaches were carried out with the help of e-mail attachments opened by individuals, reports TT. The fraud incidents were allegedly committed when the perpetrators broke into computer systems to send payments to the wrong recipients.

The investigation covers aggravated more than a dozen fraud incidents amounting to around 25.5 million kronor and fraud attempts of 15 million kronor. TT reports that the money was sent to accounts in Sweden and then transferred to other accounts, sometimes registered in Sweden and sometimes abroad.

Investigators have been able to trace some of the money to Kosovo and Hong Kong.

Around 20 companies, four banks, several law firms and a number of private individuals are among those affected, as well as the Swedish Prison and Probation Service. 

Banking giant Swedbank was made to pay out 4.3 million kronor in the most serious of the fraud attempts, but the money has been secured, according to prosecutor Ljunggren.

According to the Kvällsposten daily, the Gekås superstore in Ullared, Ikano Bank, Resurs Bank, payment startup Klarna and construction firm NCC are also among those targeted.

The Sweden Democrat party said they had also received e-mails from the group, but did not think they had fallen victim to financial fraud. “Unfortunately these kinds of e-mails are quite common in society and we have procedures for how to handle them,” said the party's press officer Henrik Vinge.

The trial starts on September 26th in Malmö.


Sweden breaks yearly record for fatal shootings

A man was shot to death in Kristianstad, Skåne, late on Thursday night. He is the 48th person to be shot dead in Sweden this year, meaning that the previous record for most fatal shootings in one year set in 2020 has now been broken.

Sweden breaks yearly record for fatal shootings

“Unfortunately we can’t say more than that he’s in his twenties and we have no current suspects,” duty officer Mikael Lind told TT newswire.

According to police statistics, this most recent deadly shooting means that 48 people have been shot to death in 2022, meaning that Sweden has broken a new record for deadly shootings per year.

Earlier this week, Sweden’s police chief Anders Thornberg said that this number is likely to rise even higher before the end of the year.

“It looks like we’re going to break the record this year,” he told TT on Tuesday. “That means – if it continues at the same pace – around 60 deadly shootings.”

“If it ends up being such a large increase that would be very unusual,” said Manne Gerell, criminiologist at Malmö University.

“We saw a large increase between 2017 and 2018, and we could see the same now, as we’re on such low figures in Sweden. But it’s still worrying that it’s increasing by so much over such a short time period,” he said.

There also seems to be an upwards trend in the number of shootings overall during 2022. 273 shootings had occured by September 1st this year, compared with 344 for the whole of 2021 and 379 for the whole of 2020.

If shootings continue at this rate for the rest of 2022, it is likely that the total number for the year would be higher than 2021 and 2020. There are, however, fewer injuries.

“The majority of shootings cause no injuries, but this year, mortality has increased substantially,” Gerell explained. “There aren’t more people being shot, but when someone is shot, they’re more likely to die.”

Thursday’s shooting took place in Kristianstad, but it’s only partially true that deadly gun violence is becoming more common in smaller cities.

“It’s moved out somewhat to smaller cities, but we’re overexaggerating that effect,” Gerell said. “We’re forgetting that there have been shootings in other small cities in previous years.”

A report from the Crime Prevention Council (Brå) presented last spring showed that Sweden, when compared with 22 different countries in Europe, was the only one with an upwards trend for deadly shootings.

Temporary increases can be seen during some years in a few countries, but there were no countries which showed such a clear increase as Sweden has seen for multiple years in a row, according to Brå.

The Swedish upwards trend for deadly gun violence began in the beginning of the 2000s, but the trend took off in 2013 and has continued to increase since.

Eight of ten deadly shootings take place in criminal environments, the study showed. The Swedish increase has taken place in principle only among the 20-29 year old age group.

When police chief Anders Thornberg was asked how the trend can be broken, he said that new recruitments are one of the most important factors.

“The most important thing is to break recruitment, make sure we can listen encrypted and that we can get to the profits of crime in a better way,” he said.