Europol recently disclosed a coordinated cross-border operation that resulted in the dismantling of a criminal organization involved in money laundering and fraud that victimized more than 50 American financial institutions, causing losses in excess of €12 million (approximately $14.5 million). The operation was led by the Spanish National Police and the US Secret Service, with the cooperation of the US Department of Justice, the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and police departments from Austria, Denmark and Greece. The eight-month long investigation led to the arrest of 105 suspects, the execution of 19 European arrest warrants, the seizure of €406,000 (approximately $492,000) in cash and 14 high-end vehicles, and the freezing of 87 bank accounts worth more than €1.3 million (approximately $1.5 million).
Europol reported on February 3, 2021, that the organized crime group, formed mainly by Greek nationals, had devised a scheme to steal funds from bank accounts connected to shell companies set up in the US by members of the group. The criminal network allegedly gained the trust of financial institutions by making transfers to US bank accounts from various locations in the EU; over time, this led the American-based banks to issue debit and credit cards for these accounts. The cards were used primarily by retailers in Spain who were in on the scam, to access available credit amounts on the cards. The group allegedly laundered the funds by transferring the sums to different bank accounts located in several EU countries and owned by members of the criminal network.
The operation was coordinated by Europol’s Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce from a virtual command post located at its headquarters in the Netherlands, which facilitated the exchange of information between the cooperating police service agencies and enabled liaison officers from the various countries to coordinate the team’s operational activities.