Authorities in the Czech Republic and Romania have halted a fraud scheme allegedly involving the sale of used cars, depriving close to 200 victims of approximately EUR 1.6 million. During an action day, 17 places were searched and 4 suspects were arrested in both countries. Eurojust supported the action day and assisted the authorities in setting up and funding a joint investigation team (JIT) into the case.
The Prague police started investigations into the scam in 2019, after complaints by victims, who had paid deposits for the purchase of an imported used vehicle, which was never delivered. The fraudsters offered second-hand cars from abroad for sale on various professionally set up websites and asked customers for deposits between EUR 4 000 and EUR 8 000. The fraudsters told customers this amount was necessary to get the car through customs so it could be transported from the Czech border.
In reality, the vehicles on offer were not for sale at all. The Prague police identified a trail to Romania and found that the fraud was being orchestrated by three Romanian and Czech suspects. At a later stage, the scammers were joined by accomplices, who had set up false profiles of German companies, whose bank accounts were used for the payment of the deposits. The alleged fraudsters are suspected of forgery and money laundering.
For sales purposes, 28 fake identities of Slovenian vehicle owners were set up, pretending they wanted to sell their car. In another instance, fake identities of a Czech couple allegedly living in Germany were used, stating they wanted to sell their car to profit from a German subsidy for a new electric car. These false internet profiles of sellers made the scheme look very credible.
Apart from funding and assisting with the setting up of the JIT, Eurojust provided judicial support during the action day and helped with its preparations.
During an action day, 17 places were searched in Romania and the Czech Republic. In Romania, six suspects were charged, two of whom were arrested. In addition, a Czech European Arrest Warrant was executed resulting in the arrest of one suspect. Authorities froze assets – such as luxury cars, real estate, cash and jewellery – worth over EUR 600 000.
In the Czech Republic, one suspect was arrested.
The operation was carried out in both countries by:
- Czech Republic: Municipal Public Prosecutor’s Office (PPO) Prague; Prague police
- Romania: Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT) Vâlcea; PPO attached to the Craiova Court of Appeal; Service for Combating Organized Crime, Vâlcea