Six arrested for siphoning €12 million in fraudulent COVID-19 unemployment payments from France (Bild: Europol)
On 16 June, officers from the French National Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie Nationale) and the Israeli Police (משטרת ישראל) closed in on the members of an organised crime group running a sophisticated benefit fraud scheme on either side the Mediterranean Sea, writes Europol.
A total of six individuals were arrested in various locations across France.This criminal syndicate is believed to have swindled the French State out of €12 million in COVID-19 unemployment benefits by using 3 600 shell companies to claim the payments. The fraudulently obtained benefits were paid onto French bank accounts, before being immediately transferred abroad and moved across Europe before being exchanged into virtual currencies.
The cash was found on that same evening in a private parking lot in the 19th arrondissement of Paris). A total of €1 765 630 and US$ 3 420 in cash was discovered hidden in fireproof and waterproof bags.
A pouch containing three luxury watches worth €230 000 and jewellery worth €30 000 was also found at the same location. Besides these seizures, the French authorities also recovered over €6,2 million on bank accounts owned by this criminal group. In parallel to the actions in France, the Israeli Police took action against the members of this same criminal group located in Israel.
An accomplice was detained, and a call centre believed to have been used to organise these large – scale scams was searched in the city of Netanya. Phones and high-tech IT devices were seized on this occasion. .
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