The Hague, 27 July 2022
With Europol’s support, the Hungarian authorities have cracked down on fraudsters targeting public sector companies.
At a press conference today, the Anti-Economic Crime Department of the Budapest Metropolitan Police Headquarters (Budapesti Rendőr-főkapitányság Gazdasági Bűnözés Elleni Főosztály) presented the results of their latest crackdown against fraudsters, carried out with the support of Europol’s European Financial and Economic Crime Centre.
These two joint actions – referred to as Operation Wine Cellar and Operation Theatre – were carried out in November of last year, the details of which can only be released now due to operational reasons. The investigators have since been working on the financial information collected during the various house searches to identify new investigative leads.
The Budapest Metropolitan Police has apprehended almost a hundred individuals after unravelling two complex fraud schemes involving invoice fraud.
The clampdown targeted an organised crime group responsible for defrauding 94 legal entities of an estimated EUR 2.8 million. These companies were mostly state and municipality-owned.
The syndicate used a sophisticated money laundering infrastructure to hamper law enforcement’s ability to trace the illegal gains.
The criminals would impersonate a service company to inform their victims that the service company now had a new bank account to which the payments for the provided services should be sent.
Once the payments were made to the bank accounts controlled by the criminals, the funds would be moved around to conceal their illegal origin.
Europol’s European Financial and Economic Crime Centre has been supporting the Hungarian investigators with these two cases since 2020, confirming the links with other European countries and identifying new leads to develop the intelligence picture on the activities carried out by these two groups.
Europol teams, composed of money laundering specialists and financial analysts, were deployed to Hungary on both action days to assist the investigators with the house searches and the forensic analysis of the seized devices.
Headquartered in The Hague, the Netherlands, Europol supports the 27 EU Member States in their fight against terrorism, cybercrime, and other serious and organised crime forms. Europol 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.
Source – Europol