Scammers are suspected of pumping some €400,000 (about $455,000) out of the Finnish Foreign Ministry's development funds, the country's National Bureau of Investigation reported. The hackers have allegedly managed to infiltrate the UN's servers abroad, becoming privy to their correspondence, Finnish national broadcaster Yle reported.
The police said that the scammers sent e-mails last February posing as the staff of the UN Development Programme, UNDP, prompting the Foreign Ministry to pay out the funds stipulated by previous agreements. According to Detective Chief Inspector Antti Perälä, the suspected crime is being investigated as aggravated fraud and aggravated money laundering.
"The Finnish state has had these kinds of funding agreements with the UNDP. It has funded ongoing projects according to that agreement. Someone has managed to get in the middle, pose as this UN organisation and the money was mistakenly paid into this fraudulent account," Perälä explained.
According to Perälä, the messages were "authentic-looking" and were sent to the right persons. Later, real UNDP project workers began questioning why the money hadn't arrived, prompting the ministry to double-check its proceedings, only to find that the account belonged to a private individual.
According to Perälä, Finland managed to recover some of the funds, although the rest had been transferred out of the account. So far, three suspects behind the money laundering have been identified. However, the mastermind of the entire fraud scheme and the recipient of the ill-gotten gains remain unknown.
"The question of where this happened and who engineered it is being investigated via requests for legal assistance sent to many countries," Perälä explained. "For the moment, we don't know who is behind the actual suspected aggravated fraud," he confirmed.
The money handed over to the fraudsters was originally intended for a project to aid the development of Kyrgyzstan's legal system.