The European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (Eurojust) and the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) have announced the successful takedown of a virtual currency scam operation responsible for scamming victims of over 10 million euros ($10.8 million).
Eurojust’s press statement on January 12 disclosed that the scamming ring operated as call centers from Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Serbia. Acting with other law enforcement agencies, Eurojust raided four call centers and 250 workplaces in the three countries.
The scammers lured victims through unsolicited calls, offering investment opportunities involving insignificant deposits. Using a strategy similar to pig-butchering, the scammers bait the victims with initial returns, and upon investing a larger sum, the scammers cease communications with the victims.
Authorities say that the scheme raked in over 10 million euros and targeted individuals in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Canada, and Australia. There is speculation that the proceeds from the illicit operations could surpass the projections of investigators, given the complexity of the scheme.
“The number of victims identified are almost certainly only be the tip of the iceberg. During investigations into the organised crime group (OCG), which ran the fraudulent call centre scheme, high volumes of financial transactions were detected,” Eurojust said.
The raid resulted in the seizure of $1 million worth of digital assets, luxury apartments, and three cars, with over 250 suspects interviewed by police. Thirty-three German police officers took part in the cross-border raid, the highest of the lot, fuelled by the fact that the country bore the brunt of the scams.
Germany’s Public Prosecutor’s Office (PPO) launched an investigation into the syndicate back in 2021, with Eurojust providing “judicial, logistical and financial support” for the collaborative effort.
Collaborating to stop virtual currency crime
Law enforcement agencies are working in concert to halt bad actors in the digital asset industry, given the cross-border functionality of the asset class. In 2022, Europol and German national police launched a massive search to arrest OneCoin founder Ruja Ignatova.
French, Swiss, and United States authorities are working on the potential extradition of one of Ignatova’s lieutenants to face trial in the United States, while South Korean and Serbian police are collaborating to smoke out the embattled Terraform Labs founder Do Kwon.
“Today, crime has become borderless and, if we want to stop these crimes and criminals, we need to think beyond conventional borders,” the Interpol’s Union Home Minister Amit Shah said.
Interpol announced that it would create a new unit focused on virtual currency crime going all the way to launch an outpost in the metaverse, which has been described as a step in the right direction.
Watch: Law & Order: Regulatory Compliance for Blockchain & Digital Assets
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