A small travel company was swindled out of more than £40,000 after falling victim to a cyber attack carried out during the pandemic.

The Travel Professionals, which had just ten staff, was in the process of arranging refunds in the summer of 2020 when an email was hacked.

Following the attack, £43,432 ended up in a bank account that had been opened by Eghosa Odeh, 40, of Queensway, Southampton.

Southampton Crown Court was told that only £3 had been recovered, despite a long and complex police investigation.

The court heard that The Travel Professionals, of Cobham, Surrey, sought to reimburse customers following the start of the pandemic and asked them to provide their bank details.

But the cyber security breach resulted in staff being supplied with Odeh's details instead.

Keely Harvey, prosecuting, said the deception came to light when the company called the Fraud Hotline and said it had been cheated out of £43,000.

The defendant failed to comply fully with the investigation, refusing to provide his PIN when asked to do so, the court heard.

Odeh pleaded guilty to possession of criminal property.

Urging the court not to jail her client, Anisha Kiri, mitigating, said: "The Probation Service has identified him as low risk - the PSR (pre-sentence report) is very positive.

"He is very apologetic and can understand the impact on the victim.

"He has done good work for the community.

This is not a man who needs a custodial sentence to teach him what he has done is wrong."

Recorder Gemma White said the money lost by The Travel Professionals went into Odeh's account and was then transferred into a number of other accounts.

She told the defendant: "Large sums of money going in and out of bank accounts are not just numbers on a page.

"I cannot disregard the impact on the company, which has still not been compensated."

But she added: "You have no previous convictions, you have achieved a successful career in pharmacology, and the references I have seen speak highly of you."

Odeh was handed a 22-week jail sentence, suspended for 12 months.

He was also ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work and 15 days of rehabilitation activity.

A Proceeds of Crime Act hearing is to take place on March 28 next year to see if any more money can be recovered.