BERLIN () – A 33-year-old Italian man was convicted on Friday of attempted extortion for threatening to blow up a British National Health Service hospital if he was not paid £ 10 million ($ 13.2 million) in cryptocurrency.
Defendant Emil A., a resident of Berlin whose surname was not mentioned in accordance with German privacy laws, was sentenced to three years in prison.
Although it never succeeded in threatening an unspecified hospital, it occurred during the first months of the coronavirus pandemic as the British healthcare system fought. The British authorities emphasized how seriously it was taken at the time.
Nigel Leary, Deputy Director of the Cybercrime Unit of the British National Criminal Agency, said that given the difficulty of evacuating patients in the intensive care unit, a “mere phone call” threatened by a hospital explosive could lead to loss of life.
The court found that the defendant sent an NHS e-mail from his home in 2020 threatening to attack the hospital if he did not receive funds in his bitcoin account.
The NHS did not respond, and the suspect sent another 17 threatening e-mails until his June arrest in June, according to prosecutors.
The suspect, who was studying computer science, used an e-mail address under the pseudonym “Combat 18”, a well-known neo-Nazi organization.
Officials at the British National Criminal Agency said the suspect had used “Fight 18” only as a cover for blackmail to add “gravity” to the threats, but in fact had no ideological connection to the far right.
They said he had no known ties to the UK or its hospitals.
While the threats began with a focus on public health, NCA officials said the suspect later expanded his threats to include protests by Black Lives Matter and the British lawmaker as potential targets.
Investigators were able to track the suspect through his electronic trail despite his attempts at secrecy.
During their probe, investigators found that A. did not produce any bombs and had no specific target, German officials said.
He can decide on Friday’s decision.
A. was previously convicted in 2013 of a similar threat to Dutch society and sentenced to 10 months in probation.
Pietro De Cristofaro in Berlin and Sylvia Hui in London contributed to this report.