German authorities initiated an investigation into a large-scale online investment fraud network with hundreds of victims across Europe, and on May 11, "a large criminal network involved in investment fraud and money laundering was dismantled as a result of a cross border operation," Europol said.
"The investigation, led by Germany, involved law enforcement and judicial authorities from Bulgaria, Israel, Latvia, North-Macedonia, Poland, Spain and Sweden," Europol added.
Though no details were provided on the extent of Latvia's involvement, the investigation resulted in 11 arrests (5 in Bulgaria, 1 in Israel and 5 in Spain). A dozen of locations were searched in Bulgaria, Israel, Poland, North Macedonia and Sweden and seizures were made including numerous electronic devices, real estate, jewellery, high-end vehicles and approximately €2 million in cash. Bank accounts have also been frozen.
"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," Europol said.
"The fraud scheme, organised mainly by Israeli nationals, included call centres, ran from Bulgaria and North-Macedonia. In total, the criminal network defrauded victims across Europe of an estimated €30 million. Victims from Germany alone suffered at least €7 million in losses while 300 complains were filed in Spain. The suspects laundered the illegal profits through bank accounts controlled or owned by shell companies based in different EU countries."
Headquartered in The Hague, the Netherlands, Europol supports the 27 EU Member States in their fight against terrorism, cybercrime and other serious and organised forms of crime.