On 6 October, a prolific scammer was arrested in Tenerife, Spain, by the National Police (Policía Nacional), as a result of a complex investigation involving four countries. The suspect – a 50 year old Croatian national – is believed to have been running a large-scale, multi-layered investment fraud scheme which siphoned at least EUR 5 million out of unsuspecting investors. Over 70 German victims have been identified so far.
This arrest follows a complex investigation initiated in December 2019 by the German Police Headquarters Ludwigsburg (Polizeipräsidium Ludwigsburg) with the support of Europol’s European Financial and Economic Crime Centre.
The action day has resulted in:
- The arrest of an individual considered as a high-value target by Europol for his involvement in numerous high-profile cases throughout Europe.
- 37 property searches Germany (18), the Netherlands (12), Spain (4) and Hungary (3).
Giving victims a false sense of legitimacy
The investigation uncovered how this criminal would pose as an employee of a real, Geneva-based investment company and would reach out to unsuspecting victims to persuade them to part with their savings, promising lucrative investment companies.
In order to fabricate a sense of legitimacy, the scammer had set-up a ‘spoofed’ website which looked nearly identical to the real company’s website. Investment documents which appeared to have been made by recognisable banks and insurance companies were also provided to prospective victims to trick them. The investors were instructed to send funds via wire transfer to bank accounts controlled by the criminal.
Once the payments had been made, the scammer would disappear with the money, moving the stolen funds from one jurisdiction to the other to conceal their illegal origin. The investigators were able to track down the stolen funds all the way to Türkiye.
International police cooperation was central in bringing the perpetrator to justice as the criminal had set up a sophisticated infrastructure spread across multiple countries to hamper law enforcement’s abilities to track him down.
Europol’s European Financial and Economic Crime Centre supported the investigation by bringing together the national investigators to establish a joint strategy and to organising the intensive exchange of evidence needed to prepare for final phase of the investigation. Europol experts from its European Financial and Economic Crime Centre were also deployed to Spain to assist the Spanish national authorities with the action day.
The following authorities took part in this investigation:
- Germany: Police Headquarters Ludwigsburg (Polizeipräsidium Ludwigsburg)
- The Netherlands: National Politie (Politie)
- Spain: National Police (Policía Nacional)
- Hungary: National Police Headquarters Budapest
This investigation was carried out with the financial support of the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT).
Better safe than sorry
Europol encourages prospective investors to:
- Don’t rely on unsolicited marketing material/calls/emails or social media direct contact: Do an internet search for the company name and verify the contact information with the financial institution or firm directly.
- Compare and confirm websites: Check for misspellings in the website, the complete website name (URL) and email address. Also, many consumer protection and financial market supervisory authorities publish lists of abused websites and warnings on current frauds.
- Avoid unusual payment methods: Be cautious if you are instructed to send funds via wire transfer to an off-shore location, or if you are instructed to pay using cryptocurrency or other unusual payment method.