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Europol helps bust Forex fraudsters

EU Reporter Correspondent

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Spain’s Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) together with Catalan police (Mossos d’Esquadra), Andorra and Europol have teamed up to dismantle an investment fraud in foreign exchange and binary options markets. The scam is believed to have an international scope. Led by Andorran Police under the judicial direction of Specialized Batllia Instruction 2, an operation carried out in January has resulted in the arrest of six suspected fraudsters aged between 20 and 34 years. The nabbed suspects allegedly defrauded thousands of clients via an investment training company.

Located in Andorra, the company specialised in the training of investment in cryptocurrencies and other assets, and is thought to have also carried out trading activities.During two house searches, police seized:eight vehicles;several electronic devices;an estimated €70 000 in fiat money and cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, OmiseGo and multiple bank accounts linked to the company.

Europol actively supported the investigation and operation mobilising experts from both the European Financial and Economic Crime Centre (EFECC) and European Cyber Crime Centre (EC3). During the operation, Europol experts were deployed in Andorra for on-the-spot operational support and forensic expertise.

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. It also works with many non-EU partner states and international organisations. From its various threat assessments to its intelligence-gathering and operational activities, Europol has the tools and resources it needs to do its part in making Europe safer. In 2019, Europol supported 1,874 international operations.

Europol

Europol - Three arrested in Spain for terrorist financing

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The Spanish National Police (Policía Nacional) supported by Europol, arrested three individuals in Madrid and Santa Cruz de Tenerife for their suspected involvement in the facilitation of terrorist financing.

The suspects are believed to have used a non-governmental organisation to finance the activities of Al-Qaeda affiliated militants. The network diverted funds raised in good faith by religious associations, under the cover of using them as humanitarian aid for Syrian orphans. In addition to financing the activities of terrorist fighters, part of the funds were used to cover the costs of a school for orphaned children, which is involved in training future terrorist fighters. The school focused on radicalising, providing combat training and encouraging orphans to continue the terrorist activities of their parents killed in combat.

As part of the operational action, officers carried out four searches and seized cash, valuables, documents and technical devices which are being analysed by investigators.

Europol was involved in the case since its early stages, facilitating the information exchange and providing operational analysis support. Europol’s European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC) will also support the analysis of the digital evidence seized during the action day.    

Headquartered in The Hague, the Netherlands, Europol supports the 27 EU member states in their fight against terrorism, cybercrime, and other serious and organized crime forms. Europol also works with many non-EU partner states and international organizations. From its various threat assessments to its intelligence-gathering and operational activities, Europol has the tools and resources it needs to do its part in making Europe safer.

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Crime

Spanish Police seize first ever narco-submarine made in Europe

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The Spanish National Police (Policía Nacional), in close co-operation with Europol and law enforcement from five other countries, have seized in the city of Málaga the first ever half-submersible vessel being built on European territory. Similar vessels captured in the past have always been of Latin American manufacture. 

The seizure was made in the framework of Operation FERRO, a high-level law enforcement operation against an organized crime group involved in large-scale drugs trafficking. 

Over 300 police officers carried out this operation in Spain, supported by the National Police of Colombia (Policía Nacional de Colombia), the Dutch National Police (Politie), the Portuguese Judicial Police (Polícia Judiciária), the UK National Crime Agency and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, with international activity coordinated by Europol. 

Results of Operation FERRO

  • 47 house searches carried out in the Spanish cities of Tarragona (6), Barcelona (11), Gerona (3), Málaga (11), Castellón (4), Valencia (2), Murcia (7), Cádiz (1), Granada (1) and Badajoz (1);
  • 52 individuals arrested;
  • 2 boats seized: one semi-submersible vessel in Málaga and one speedboat worth over €300 000 in the province of Murcia;
  • Over 3 tonnes of cocaine seized, alongside 700 kilos of hashish and over €100 000 in cash. 

    Operation FERRO was carried out in several phases

Phase one: Investigators identified an organised crime group, composed of Spanish, Colombian and Dominican nationals, involved in large-scale trafficking of cocaine, hashish and marijuana. The criminals were operating from Spain, specifically Cataluña.  Between April to December 2020, a number of important cocaine seizures linked to this criminal group were made in Colombia.  A total of 2 900 kilos of cocaine were seized. 

Phase two: In November 2020, police officers in Spain arrested the leader of this criminal network in Tarragona, alongside 13 of his accomplices.

Phase three: In February of this year, another branch of this organised crime group was targeted. Four individuals were arrested in Tarragona and a shipment of 583 kilos of hashish on its way to France and Italy seized. House searches were also carried out in Málaga, on the occasion of which the half-submersible vessel was found in a warehouse. The boat – the first ever of its kind seized on European soil, was still in construction when it was found. The craft was 9 meters long and could have been able to transport up to 2 tonnes of drugs.  

Phase four: One of the main targets was arrested in February at the El Prat airport in Barcelona as he was trying to flee to the Netherlands. As a result of this arrest, a warehouse was searched Barcelona which led to the seizure of 300 kilos of cocaine. 

Phase five: A clandestine drug laboratory was discovered in Barcelona next to an indoor cannabis plantation with over 1 150 plants. A 15-meter long speedboat belonging to this criminal network and loaded with 7 000 litres of gasoline was also seized in the region of Murcia. 

Phase six: At the end of February, the remaining members of the criminal network were arrested. Some 6 000 litres of drug precursors were also seized, destined for a clandestine laboratory in Murcia. 

Europol’s support

Europol’s EU Drugs Unit co-ordinated the intense international activity from the onset of this Investigation. Its team of specialists facilitated the exchange of information between the different countries involved and analysed the operational data to identify the main targets. 

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Europol

Europol supports Spain and US in dismantling money-laundering organized crime

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Europol have supported the Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) and the US Drug Enforcement Administration to dismantle an organized crime group laundering money for major South American cartels. 

The criminal network was involved in debt collection and laundering of money coming from drug trafficking. They also provided so-called hitman services involving contract killings, threats and violence targeted at other criminal groups. The criminal organisation used the network of hitmen to collect payments across Spain from other criminal groups buying drugs from the South American cartels to redistribute them locally. The investigation identified also a number of ‘front men’ acquiring luxurious goods for the lifestyles of the group’s leaders. This was only a small part of a large money-laundering scheme that traded high-end cars and used smurfing techniques to place criminal profits into the financial system.

Results

  • 4 suspects arrested (Colombian, Spanish and Venezuelan nationals)
  • 7 suspects charged with criminal offences
  • 1 company charged with a criminal offence
  • 3 home searches in Spain
  • Seizures of high-end cars, luxury items, firearms and ammunition

Europol facilitated the information exchange and provided analytical support during the whole investigation.

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Headquartered in The Hague, the Netherlands, Europol supports the 27 EU member states in their fight against terrorism, cybercrime and other serious and organized forms of crime. It also works with many non-EU partner states and international organizations. From its various threat assessments to its intelligence-gathering and operational activities, Europol has the tools and resources it needs to do its part in making Europe safer.

 

EMPACT

In 2010 the European Union set up a four-year Policy Cycle to ensure greater continuity in the fight against serious international and organised crime. In 2017 the Council of the EU decided to continue the EU Policy Cycle for the 2018 - 2021 period. It aims to tackle the most significant threats posed by organised and serious international crime to the EU. This is achieved by improving and strengthening cooperation between the relevant services of EU Member States, institutions and agencies, as well as non-EU countries and organisations, including the private sector where relevant. Money laundering is one of the priorities for the Policy Cycle.

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