However, on Thursday the former asylum seeker was unmasked as the mastermind behind a £100 million fraud that threatened every bank account and credit card holder in Britain. Despite his traveling lifestyle he is thought to have made millions himself, but investigators have yet to trace the fortune of a man who lived so modestly to avoid detection. From the Java Bean internet cafe in Wembley, North London, Subramaniam ran an extraordinary global criminal network dubbed “eBay for fraudsters” which was responsible for the raiding of bank accounts worldwide.
His site, called DarkMarket, acted as an online marketplace for villains to trade victims’ credit card information such as PIN numbers, answers to bank account security questions and even passwords for social networking websites. The “one-stop shop” for fraudsters sold 10 credit card numbers for around £30 and offered tutorials to teach others how to compromise internet bank accounts, commit identity fraud, money laundering and even scams targeting retail and gaming industries.
The sophisticated site featured breaking news-style updates on the latest stolen bank details available for purchase. Its products included equipment to clone ATM cards.
More than 2 500 criminals from around the world subscribed to what was considered the leading English-language website for trading stolen financial information. The scam was smashed following a three-year investigation by the FBI and the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency whose undercover agents infiltrated the site posing as criminals. That led to the arrest of the mastermind along with four others in the UK. Worldwide, 60 members were arrested in countries such as the US, Canada, Germany, France, Turkey, Israel and Russia. Details of the virtual crime boss emerged on Thursday as Subramaniam pleaded guilty at Blackfriars Crown Court in central London to conspiracy to defraud and furnishing false information.
A Tamil born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, he is thought to have entered the UK illegally at 16 accompanied by his aunt and uncle, brother and sister. He was granted British citizenship in 2002. Although he took out £800 000 of fraudulent mortgages on three houses in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, and Tadnworth, Surrey, he never lived in them but stayed with friends in Wembley and Ilford, Essex. He had no previous convictions and had never come to the attention of police. But online, under his username JiLsi, he was a formidable crime lord selling banking information from tens of millions of victims. From the time the site was set up in November 2005 he presided over its growth to more than 2500 members. When undercover officers penetrated the site in 2006 they were astonished at the sophistication of the scam. The shadowy website, founded in Western Samoa, was accessible only to those referred by other fraudsters and had a secure electronic payment system described by Judge John Hillen as a “PayPal for criminals”. Subramaniam was involved in the site until October 2006 when he was demoted by other administrators for poor security practice. As the net closed he handed himself in to police in 2007. With no papers or belongings, he hoped they would fail to uncover the depth of his involvement. But he now faces up to 10 years in prison when sentenced later this year.
This article was published in the Daily Mail and posted on Independent Online on the 15th of January 2010.