An Italian man who threatened to blow up an NHS hospital during the first wave of Britain's Covid-19 pandemic unless he was paid £10million in Bitcoin has been jailed.
Berlin resident Emil A made the threat against an unspecified hospital in April 2020, as the hard-hit NHS battled soaring Covid hospitalisation rates.
The defendant emailed the hospital from his home threatening to blow it up unless he was sent the enormous fund to his Bitcoin account.
The NHS did not respond and the suspect proceeded to send another 17 threatening emails until his arrest in June, according to prosecutors.
Emil A - known only by his first name due to German privacy laws - was sentenced to three years in prison for making the threat, which he did not follow through with.
Nigel Leary - deputy director of Britain's National Crime Agency's cyber crime unit - said because of the difficulty of evacuating patients in intensive care, 'a mere phone call' threatening to plant an explosive in a hospital could have resulted in loss of life at the time.
The suspect - who had studied computer science - had used an email address under the pseudonym 'Combat 18,' a known neo-Nazi organization.
An Italian man who threatened to blow up an NHS hospital during the first wave of Britain's Covid-19 pandemic unless he was paid £10million in Bitcoin has been jailed. Pictured: File image of an NHS hospital
British National Crime Agency officials said the suspect had used 'Combat 18' merely as a front for the extortion to add 'gravitas' to the threats, but did not have any ideological link to the far right.
They said he had no known links to the UK or its hospitals.
Emil A initially sent threats to the NHS, but later included a Black Lives Matter protest and a UK lawmaker as potential targets.
The defendant emailed the hospital from his home threatening to blow it up unless he was sent the enormous fund to his Bitcoin account. Pictured: File image of an NHS hospital
Investigators were able to track the suspect electronically despite his attempts to conceal his footprints, court spokeswoman Lisa Jani said.
He was arrested in an overnight raid June 15 by police SWAT teams and federal agents.
During the course of their probe, investigators determined that Emil A had produced no bomb and had no specific target, Jani said.
He can appeal Friday's ruling.
Emil A was already previously convicted of a similar threat against a Dutch company in 2013 and sentenced to 10 months probation.