Arrests have been made in Bulgaria, Israel and Spain in a cross-border bust of a large criminal network involved in investment fraud and money laundering, European police agency Europol said on May 12.
The fraud scheme, organised mainly by Israeli nationals, included call centres, was run from Bulgaria and the Republic of North Macedonia.
In total, the criminal network defrauded victims across Europe of an estimated 30 million euro, Europol said.
The criminal network created different trading online platforms advertising substantial profits from investments in high-risk options and cryptocurrencies.
The criminal group ran at least four of such professionally looking trading platforms, luring victims through advertisements in social media and search engines.
The members of the criminal group were posing as experienced brokers when contacting the victims via the call centre they had set up.
The suspects were using manipulated software to show the gains from the investments and to motivate the victims to invest even more.
The investigation, led by Germany, involved law enforcement and judicial authorities from Bulgaria, Israel, Latvia, North Macedonia, Poland, Spain and Sweden, supported by Europol and Eurojust, the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation.
Europol said that 11 people were arrested – five in Bulgaria and one in Israel on May 11, while five people had previously been arrested in Spain.
A dozen locations were searched in Bulgaria, Israel, Poland, North Macedonia and Sweden.
Seizures include numerous electronic devices, real estate, jewellery, high-end vehicles and about two million euro in cash.
Bank accounts have also been frozen, Europol said.
Victims from Germany alone suffered at least seven million euro in losses while 300 complaints were filed in Spain.
The suspects laundered the illegal profits through bank accounts controlled or owned by shell companies based in different EU countries.
Europol said that it had supported the operation by facilitating information exchange and providing analytical support and operational coordination.
During the action day, on May 11, Europol experts cross-checked operational information in real-time against Europol’s databases to provide leads to investigators in the field, the police agency said.
(Photo: André Rainaud/freeimages.com)
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