A blackmailer who posed as a far-right extremist and threatened to blow up an NHS hospital unless he was paid £10million ($13,924,990) in Bitcoin has been jailed for three years.
Emil Apreda, 33, also made threats against unnamed MPs and Black Lives Matter protesters in 18 emails sent during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic last spring.
The Italian-national, who had studied computer science, posed as a member of the neo-Nazi group Combat 18, using encryption tools on the dark web to disguise his true identity for almost six weeks between April and June.
The threat sparked a ‘target hardening’ of hospital infrastructure at a time when large canisters of oxygen were being transported around the country to treat coronavirus patients on ventilators.
German armed police raided Apreda’s flat in Berlin on June 15, the day before his final deadline for carrying out his purported attack.
Investigators believe Apreda, who had not identified any specific targets, had no links to the far-right or access to explosives, but had used the terrorist ideology as a front to demand payment in cryptocurrency.
He was found guilty of attempted extortion against the NHS at the District Criminal Court in Berlin, following a trial which began in December last year, the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) said.
He has been sentenced to three years in prison but released on bail until the decision is ratified.
Apreda sent his first email to the NHS on April 26 last year, with a copy sent to the NCA hours later, threatening to detonate a bomb in an unspecified hospital unless he was paid £10million in Bitcoin.
In later emails, he identified Black Lives Matter protesters and MPs as targets, making references to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the anniversary of the terrorist murder of MP Jo Cox.
Mr. Court described the campaign as ‘one of the most significant threats we’ve seen in quite some time to UK infrastructure’. COVID deaths rise by 290 as another 7,434 cases recorded
He added: ‘I think at the height of this, we were losing nearly 1,000 people a day. ‘For six weeks we’re trying to manage somebody who could have been planting a bomb in a hospital somewhere in the UK.
‘And even if, as we later found out, he didn’t have access to, or the ability to, deploy an IED (improvised explosive device), if that had become public the consequence of people not having the confidence in the NHS was, frankly, unacceptable.’