The detainees laundered proceeds from criminal activities through a pre-existing money laundering scheme that involved several bank accounts in the European Union, China and Israel.
The joint investigation carried out with the support of Europol has led to the dismantling of a Franco-Israeli criminal network involved in large-scale fraud. The operation, led by France, included the Croatian National Police (Hrvatska Policija) , theCroatian Anti-Money Laundering Office (Ured za sprječavanje pranja novca), the French National Police (Police Nationale), the French Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie Nationale), the Budapest Metropolitan Police (Budapesti Rendőr-főkapitányság), the Israel Police (משטרת ישראל), the Portuguese Judicial Police (Policia Judiciaria) and the Spanish National Police (Policía Nacional).
The operational activities took place in the so-called five days of action, carried out between January 2022 and January 2023 in France and Israel, with the following result:
- 8 house searches in France and Israel.
- The arrest of the main organiser of the network in Israel.
- 8 suspects arrested (6 in France and 2 in Israel).
- The seizure of electronic equipment and vehicles, about 3 million euros from Portuguese bank accounts, 1.1 million euros from Hungarian bank accounts, 600,000 euros from Croatian bank accounts, 400,000 euros from Spanish bank accounts and about 350,000 euros in cryptocurrencies.
- The total value of the seizures is estimated at around 5.5 million euros.
- An international investigation into the 38 million euros is being undergone.
The criminal network, made up of French and Israeli nationals, targeted companies located in France. In early December 2021, one of the suspects impersonated the CEO of a company specialising in metallurgy, based in the department of Haute-Marne in north-eastern France. The fraudster asked the company’s accountant to make an urgent and confidential transfer of 300,000 euros to a bank in Hungary. The fraud was discovered a few days later when the accountant, thinking that they were acting on behalf of the CEO of the company, tried to make a transfer of 500,000 euros. The company filed a complaint and investigators later found that the call came from Israel.
The exchange of information and international cooperation facilitated by Europol led to the discovery of accomplices, modus operandi and funds. The criminal investigation in Croatia contributed to the discovery of the real identity of the money mules used by the criminal network. Croatia’s competent authorities blocked more than 600,000 euros in several bank accounts.
Since January 2022, Europol has facilitated the exchange of information and provided specialised analytical support, including financial and cryptocurrency analysis and knowledge. The analysis led to the identification of links between countries to enable the urgent seizure of criminal assets before suspects could launder them. During the days of action, Europol deployed experts to France, Hungary and Israel to cross-check operational information against Europol databases in real time and provide forensic support on the ground.
In 2020, Europol established the European Financial and Economic Crime Centre (EFECC) in order to increase synergies between economic and financial investigations and to strengthen its capacity to support law enforcement authorities to effectively combat this major criminal threat.