A Russian hacker who masterminded a $10 million ATM heist using cloned debit cards has escaped jail - sparking accusations that authorities in Russia are being soft on cybercrime.
Yevgeny Anikin, 27, was a key member of a gang that stole customer data from the computer systems of electronic payment service RBS WorldPay, and used the information to clone the cards and raise withdrawal limits.
Mules working for the gang used the counterfeit cards to steal $10 million from more than 2,100 ATMs in at least 280 cities worldwide.
Anikin used his share of the money to buy a luxury car and two apartments in the Russian city of Novosibirsk, before being caught in 2009.
The whole operation was completed in an astonishing 12 hours. Speaking at the time, acting US attorney Sally Quillian Yates described the heist as "perhaps the most sophisticated and organised computer fraud attack ever conducted".
But according to local media reports, Anikin has escaped jail when a court in Novosibirsk today handed down a five-year suspended sentence after the hacker pleaded guilty and appealed for leniency.
Anikin told the court: "I want to say that I repent and fully admit my guilt", adding that he had begun to pay back the money he stole.
In September last year, another of the gang's members, 29-year-old Viktor Pleshchuk, of St Petersburg, received a six-year suspended sentence after agreeing to help authorities.