Europol has dismantled a gang linked to a $40 million CEO scam. Find out more about how this international criminal syndicate was uncovered and who was involved.
The email scam gang behind France’s largest-ever CEO scam has been dismantled after a coordinated police operation across multiple countries was successful in arresting six people in France and two in Israel.
The Europe-wide operation to track down the Franco-Israeli criminal organization involved the Croatian National Police, the Croatian Anti Money Laundering Office, the French National Police, the French Gendarmerie, the Hungarian Budapest Metropolitan Police, the Israel Police, the Portuguese Judicial Police, and the Spanish National Police.
In early December 2021, one of the gang members, now arrested as a suspect, impersonated the CEO of a metallurgy company in northeastern France and tricked the accountant into making an urgent and confidential transfer of €500,000 ($530,000) which was subsequently spotted and blocked.
In late December 2021, according to Europol’s press release, Sefri-Cime, a real-estate developer, fell victim to the same group after its members impersonated lawyers working for a well-known French accounting firm. According to Europol, they persuaded the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) to transfer almost €38 million ($40 million) altogether.
The criminal network, consisting of French and Israeli nationals, used a pre-existing money laundering scheme that laundered the funds via European countries, China, and then Israel. An investigation that followed revealed the money mules working for the gang in Croatia, Portugal, and Hungary.
The police were able to seize electronic equipment and vehicles, €3 million from Portuguese bank accounts, €1.1 million from Hungarian bank accounts, €600,000 from Croatian bank accounts, €EUR 400,000 from Spanish bank accounts and €350,000 in virtual currencies.
The operation continued for five days between January 2022 and 2023 in France and Israel, leading to eight house searches and eight arrests, including the alleged Israeli gang leader, according to Europol.