More Chinese nationals arrested in Pakistan ATM heist

The two foreigners were apprehended stealing financial data from a Karachi ATM owned by Pakistan’s largest bank, Habib Bank Limited, which has been previously targeted. (AFP)
Updated 11 January 2018
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More Chinese nationals arrested in Pakistan ATM heist

ISLAMABAD: The arrest of two Chinese nationals involved in ATM skimming on Wednesday has alarmed security officials who have apprehended numerous Chinese individuals committing cybercrimes in Pakistan since last year.
The two foreigners were apprehended stealing financial data from a Karachi ATM owned by Pakistan’s largest bank, Habib Bank Limited, which has been previously targeted.
“The two Chinese men have been booked under FIR #1/2018,” Station House Officer Salman Waheed told Arab News on Thursday from his police station in southern Karachi. “We have registered cases against them under the Pakistan Penal Code and will send them to prison.”
He added that skimming machines and other devices were also recovered from the suspects.
The men had planted the devices days earlier and returned on Wednesday to collect the stolen data, not knowing that they were being monitored by bank officials who first detained the individuals and, after interrogating them, called the Federal Investigation Agency’s Cyber Crime Unit.
“These two skimmers arrived in Islamabad on Jan. 4 and traveled to Karachi. They took residence at a guesthouse in Defense Housing Authority (an expensive neighborhood) and began their criminal activity,” said Waleed, who is part of the investigation team.
He said the passports of the Chinese nationals have a one-month business visa, and it is likely that the two individuals have a link to the previous gang involved in similar activities in the city.
Superintendent of Police Tauqeer Naeem, who is in charge of Saddar area, a business neighborhood, said: “There has been a sharp rise in ATM fraud in Karachi, and the devices that the two men were carrying are similar to the devices used in other cases.”
In December, Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) probed a string of ATM scams that led to the arrest of four suspects and included Chinese nationals. The agency recovered money worth $105,000 in local currency and confiscated equipment and cloned debit cards used by the scammers.
Banks using outdated technology fitted with aging security protocols have attracted “organized foreign groups” to hack the ATM booths, suggests the FIA, which has called for the introduction of biometric security at cash machines.
Waleed explained that the two Chinese men may be part of an international skimming syndicate, pointing to FIA Director Shakeel Durrani’s press briefing in December in which he said that the hackers had sent financial information to several countries and the cash withdrawal trail led to China, Canada, Italy, Nigeria, Indonesia, Malaysia and the US, among other countries.
Explaining how the skimming is done, Waleed said: “Their main objective is to enter financial databases since that gives them the ability to read anyone’s credit or debit card. When the skimming device is installed in the card scanner, it records all the data on the card and stores it in the memory of the concealed device. Separately, a spy camera is used to record users’ PIN codes while they are typing them in before taking out cash from the machine. The saved data is cloned onto a fake blank magnetic strip card using a laptop.”
The end result, he said, is a fully functional plastic financial wallet.


UK warns dual nationals over travel to Iran, as France holds on envoy nomination

Updated 19 September 2018
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UK warns dual nationals over travel to Iran, as France holds on envoy nomination

  • Britain is seeking the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation who was arrested in April 2016
  • France will not name a new ambassador to Tehran before getting information from Iran following a foiled plot to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in Paris in June

LONDON: Britain on Wednesday advised British-Iranian dual nationals against all but essential travel to Iran, tightening up its existing travel advice and warning it has only limited powers to support them if detained.

The advisory came in tandem with France’s decision to hold off on appointing a new ambassador to Iran, as it seeks clarification over an attempt to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in Paris in June

“The Foreign Secretary (Jeremy Hunt) has taken the decision to advise against all but essential travel by UK-Iranian dual nationals to Iran,” a foreign office spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.
“British citizens who also hold Iranian nationality face risks if they travel to Iran, as we have seen all too sadly in a number of cases. The Iranian government does not recognize dual nationality, so if a dual national is detained our ability to provide support is extremely limited.”
Earlier this month Britain’s Middle East minister Alistair Burt used a visit to Iran to discuss cases of detained dual nationals, alongside other diplomatic issues.
Britain is seeking the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation who was arrested in April 2016 at a Tehran airport as she headed back to Britain with her daughter, now aged four, after a family visit.
She was convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran’s clerical establishment, a charge denied by her family and the Foundation, a charity organization that is independent of Thomson Reuters and operates independently of Reuters News.
Meanwhile, France will not name a new ambassador to Tehran before getting information from Iran following a foiled plot to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in Paris last June, French officials said on Wednesday.
An Iranian diplomat based in Austria and three other people were arrested on suspicion of plotting the attack on a meeting of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
Iran has said it had nothing to do with the plot, which it called a “false flag” operation staged by figures within the opposition group itself.
The incident has hit relations just as France and its European partners are seeking to salvage a 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers.
France’s ambassador to Iran departed in the summer. Iran has also yet to replace its departed ambassador to Paris.
“We have a charge d’affaires today in Tehran and there is a high-level dialogue between French and Iranian authorities,” said a French presidential source.
“We are working together to bring to light what happened around this event ... I wouldn’t say there is a direct link (in not appointing an ambassador), but Iran has promised to give us objective facts in the coming weeks that would allow us to pursue our diplomatic relationship as it is today.”
A French diplomatic source said the nomination had indeed been suspended as a result of the alleged plot.
France’s Foreign Ministry in August told its diplomats and officials to postpone non-essential travel to Iran indefinitely, citing the plot and a hardening of Tehran’s attitude toward France, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters.
President Emmanuel Macron is likely to discuss the issue with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani when they meet on Sept. 25 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, the source said.
Along with Britain and Germany, France is trying save a 2015 agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, which was thrown into disarray when US President Donald Trump pulled out of the accord in May and re-imposed economic sanctions on Iran.
Even so, tensions between Paris and Tehran have grown in recent months as Macron and his government have become increasingly frustrated with Iran’s activities in the Middle East region, in particular its ballistic missile program.