One of Europe's elite 'blackhat' card fraud engineers has been sentenced to three years in prison at London's Old Bailey for helping European gangs steal money using tampered chip and PIN terminals.

Twenty-six year old German national, Thomas Beeckman, was a talented electronics engineer who became a mastermind on how to subvert the technology used in European PIN entry devices, the small machines that customers use to pay using plastic credit or debit cards in shops.

Beeckman would receive terminals that had been stolen by gangs from around Europe and modify them by introducing circuit boards capable of transmitting PINs in real time to criminals via Bluetooth.

The modified terminals were then re-exported back to the countries from which they had been stolen and introduced back into the chip and PIN system, allowing financial theft on an unspecified scale.

The advance Beeckman's electronics skill offered the gangs was that the terminals appeared genuine, delaying the point at which fraud would be traced to the physical PIN device itself.

The criminal networks also cloned cards which had been compromised, exporting them to countries such as the US, which has no PIN security at the point of sale.

"By putting this individual behind bars the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit has prevented them from defrauding the banking industry and its customers of significant sums of money," said detective sergeant Richard Maynard of Scotland Yard's Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit (DCPCU).

"There can be no doubt that the work of our specialist unit over the past few years has played a key part in driving card fraud down, and we continue to provide a clear warning to the organised gangs and those who work with them that we will track them down," he said.

How much Beeckman was paid in return for his Blackhat skills is unknown but he was reportedly able to support a wife and family in Thailand from the proceeds.

The German was eventually caught in June after a tip-off as he entered The Netherlands by bus from the UK. Modified terminals were found on his possession which police believe were to be planted in shops in Belgium and The Netherlands.