The Sofia District Court is continuing European arrest warrant proceedings to hand Israeli citizen Gal Barak to the Austrian judicial authorities, the Bulgarian Prosecutor-General’s Office said on February 28.
This followed an announcement by Austria’s Interior Ministry on February 26 after an operation against cybercrime and money laundering.
The Austrian announcement said that with the assistance of investigators from Bulgaria, Germany and the Czech Republic, one of the main suspects in a scheme that defrauded large numbers of people of huge sums had been arrested.
European investigation orders had been carried out in Sofia between January 28 and February 1 by the Bulgarian authorities with the support of investigators and IT forensic experts from the Austrian police and the German authorities.
Several terabytes of data, business records and a six-digit sum of money had been confiscated. The premises of 21 companies and four private addresses were searched. In addition, a total of 14 accounts were secured and the main suspect arrested and was the subject of an extradition application, the Austrian statement said.
The Bulgarian Prosecutor’s Office said that since the beginning of 2019, the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office had been acting on four European investigation orders from Germany and Austria in connection with an international crime group that had deceived thousands of citizens of Germany, Austria and other EU countries. The financial damage caused by the scheme was about 100 million euro, the Prosecutor’s Office said.
The money received through the fraud had been banked in various accounts, including outside Bulgaria, thus laundering the proceeds of the fraud, the statement said.
The Sofia Prosecutor’s Office carried out 34 search-and-seizure operations in Sofia on the basis of a court order.
With the permission of the court, accounts in various banks in the country were seized.
A number of witnesses were questioned, employees of call centres and companies used for the group’s activities, the statement said.
The Prosecutor’s Office said that on January 30, on the basis of a European Arrest Warrant issued by Austria, the Sofia District Prosecutor’s Office ordered the detention of Gal Barak, an Israeli citizen, “listed as the main member of the international crime group, who attempted to leave the country through the Kalotina border checkpoint”.
At the request of the District Prosecutor’s Office, the suspect was remanded in custody on February 1 by the Sofia District Court. On February 7, following an appeal by the suspect, the Sofia Court of Appeal amended this to house arrest, the Prosecutor’s Office said.
The Sofia District Court was dealing with the extradition proceedings while the Prosecutor’s Office was continuing investigations at the request of the European partners, the statement said.
(Photo: Jason Morrison)