Jim Armitage: A year on, and Mario Draghi's pledge to save the euro should be applauded

He followed his words with deeds by launching a vast programme to buy bonds

A year ago, Italian banker Mario Draghi saved the world. The bureaucrat at the top of the European Central Bank declared that he would "do whatever it takes" to prevent a collapse of the eurozone economies.

Given that his hands were firmly clasped around the monetary levers of the eurozone – namely the ones that set interest rates and the power to buy unfathomable trillions of euros-worth of debt – the speech meant investors suddenly felt safe enough to hold on to the bonds issued by European governments.

Interest rates for said loans fell dramatically, meaning that stricken governments on the Med could afford to service their mountainous overdrafts a while longer. Mr Draghi followed his words with deeds little more than a month later, launching a vast programme to buy bonds.

As a result of that bond buying pledge – known as the Outright Monetary Transactions programme – bond yields on Spanish and Italian debt have remained affordable despite a potentially bruising year, meaning they have not turned into giant versions of Greece or Ireland.

Many say Mr Draghi has merely fended off the inevitable defaults of such countries with the result that they have just been piling on trillions more Mediterranean debt that will never be repaid.

Others of a more conspiratorial bent point out that, as yet another Goldman Sachs alumnus, Mr Draghi's just keeping up profits for his chums in the investment banks by artificially boosting the stock market and other asset prices.

The fact is, both of these arguments could probably be a bit right. But neither is necessarily a bad thing for the citizens of Europe.

Surely the last thing we need just as the Continent's economies finally seem to be bottoming out is a collapse in European asset prices.

And giving Europe's troubled economies breathing space is a sound strategy, not one to be viewed through the emotional language of "cop out" and "cowardice" that one hears so much in the political dialogue – particularly from eurosceptics who want nothing more than for the single currency project to fail.

Rather than being left alone to collapse, what these countries need right now is time and breathing space to reform their economies. That's not to say they will ever be able to get their debts down to manageable levels by themselves, of course they won't.

But they can reform themselves enough to give Angela Merkel the ammunition to sell to her electorate the concept of offering more German euros to them in support.

Mr Draghi did the right thing, and deserves our applause.

Hacking offers a shadow economy for poor nations

Victims of the cyber attack a week ago on that bastion of the British middle classes, Lakeland homewares, might raise a perfectly crafted spatula in delight.

It emerged yesterday that US prosecutors have filed charges against the biggest and most sophisticated international hacking gang ever busted.

The numbers are mindboggling. Just five men between them are alleged to have stolen more than 160 million credit and debit card details, using them to take more than $300m (£195m) from the businesses they attacked and their customers.

The case is the biggest in the world of its kind, and is probably being brought in the US because it's one of the few countries in the world with the resources and commitment to pursue such vast criminal allegations.

Its perpetrators – from Russia and Ukraine – respected no borders. The investigators have been after them for years, watching in dismay as they allegedly hit firms in the UK, the US, Canada, France, Belgium, the Middle East.

In Britain alone, it is claimed they stole some 30 million payment card numbers from the payment processor Commidea in 2008.

They weren't shy of taking on the biggest companies in the world, either. Nasdaq, Carrefour, Citibank and a subsidiary of Visa all fell victim.

Two of the men were arrested in Holland: one is still there awaiting extradition and the other has already been despatched to the US. It's not clear where in the world the other three are, but we do know their names and clearly defined roles in the gang which, in many ways, mirrored the roles of breaking and entering gangs since time began.

Two, the Russians Vladimir Drinkman, 32, and Alexander Kalinin, 26, were the safecrackers who did the actual hacking, the suit in New Jersey says.

A third, Roman Kotov, 32, was the expert in digging through the files to find the most valuable goods: he sifted the hacked data for those all-important card details.

Another, Ukrainian Mikhail Ryitkov, 26, was the electronic getaway driver, hiding their escape by creating a fog of anonymous web hosting services.

Finally, the fence. He was another Russian, Dmitriy Smilianets, 29, who allegedly sold the card details and distributed the enormous profits. Lakeland victims may take comfort in the fact that European cards fetched the highest prices – at $50 each – due to the computer chips they contain that make them more secure. US and Canadian cards were only $10 and $15 respectively.

Clearly, such vast international crimes need huge amounts of co-operation across borders to counter. And there, according to industry investigators, is the rub. In some of eastern Europe's poorest countries, these thefts from the developed world have created quite a handy shadow economy: a small transfer of wealth from West to East.

It finds its ways into the pockets, not just of those hunched over their computers and doing the dirty work, but of officials too. Not to mention the local clean economy, as the crims spend their ill-gotten gains on cars, luxury goods and properties.

One expert even describes how the best hackers are seen by governments as "national assets".

As ever with crime, it largely breeds and feeds out of poverty. While Western prosectors should be applauded for chasing the bad guys down, our governments will only prevent new gangs springing up by helping Eastern European countries develop the legitimate sides of their economy.

Just think of the businesses these five highly skilled young men might have been creating if they'd had the kind of investment and support tech entrepreneurs can tap into in the West.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Sport
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
transfers
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
transfersColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Business Analyst - Banking - Scotland - £380-£480

£380 - £480 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Banking - Edinburgh - £380 - ...

Risk Analyst - (Multi Asset class) £70k - £80k

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: My client is a leading financial ...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Application Support Engineer (Windows Server, Networking, Perl)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (Windows Server, Ne...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn