The Italian law enforcement agency, along with Belgium and France, has successfully dismantled an organised criminal network that involved euro counterfeiting. Europol supported the operation.
The action day was on the 15th of July, 2020. On the action day, the officers from the Italian Carabinieri Corps (Carabinieri) along with its specialised Anti-Counterfeit Currency Unit has arrested 44 suspects and simultaneously froze all the criminal assets net worth €8 million in Italy. The assets that were recovered during the overall operation consisted of the confiscation of 8 business premises, 50 apartments, ten companies operating in several sectors, two farms, 22 bank accounts and luxurious boat. All of these combined estimates the total value of €8 million approximately.
The Largest Euro Counterfeiting Network Dismantled, Perhaps!
Inquiries had started back in October 2017 with the seizure occasion of €50 banknotes in the province of the Italian city named Benevento. The forensic examination of the so-thought counterfeit banknotes confirmed that they originally are counterfeits and were produced using sophisticated printing methods, which urges both high-level technical expertise and good quality of machinery as well as raw materials. The counterfeiters had imitated all main security features of genuine euro banknotes to make it seem legit. The criminal network is believed to have generated and distributed over the years more than three million of the counterfeit banknotes for a total face value counting over €233 million. This estimate represents one-quarter of all counterfeit euro banknotes having detected in circulation since euro was introduced. This network could very well be stated as the largest ever dismantle since the initial days of the euro currency.
It has been found that the mastermind behind the criminal organisation has been involved in currency counterfeiting for over 20 years. He had not just established the whole network in charge of the counterfeit euro production and several other currencies but has also organised their circulation on the European market. The investigation has uncovered links to the Italian criminal network named “the Camorra”. Other illegal affiliates have also sought new distribution channels in Italy and abroad.
In Naples back in February 2018, the preliminary investigations have resulted in the capture of nearly 450,000 counterfeit €50 and €100 banknotes bearing a total face value of €41 million. These were found hidden in barrels. Next in July 2018, an illicit mint shop of 50-euro cent coins was also disrupted in the Italian province of Lombardy. During these action days, four suspects were arrested.
At the similar time, simultaneous actions that were coordinated by Europol took place in Belgium and France. Europol had supported the operation by facilitating the exchange of information, providing analytical support and as well as coordinating the harmonised law enforcement actions in the varied Member States. During the raid, Europol had deployed an expert to Italy to cross-check the operational information against Europol’s databases in real-time basis and provide specialised information in the euro counterfeiting on-the-spot.
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