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The Budapest Metropolitan Police along with Europol have arrested a criminal group involved in money laundering and fraud through the use of administrative documents.
According to Europol, the investigation included 24 house searches in Budapest, Pest County, and Szabolcs-Szatmár Bereg County. There were a total of 16 suspects that were interrogated and 5 were arrested.
Police also seized funds in 32 countries across Europe, Australia, and South America. These included one high-end vehicle, large quantities of electronic equipment, mobile phones and sim cards, data storage devices, payment cards, weapons and ammunition, jewellery, a pledge ticket for a value of about EUR 740 and the equivalent of more than EUR 120 000 cash in different currencies.
According to reports, almost EUR 5 million were found to be linked to criminal activities carried out by the group. The investigation uncovered that the members of the criminal network established a number of companies with no meaningful economic activities, and purchased others with the use of strawmen.
The suspects opened bank accounts in the name of these companies to be used in a chain within a money-laundering scheme. The bank accounts received transfers from other accounts based in different countries and these assets usually originated from invoice fraud or cryptocurrency-related swindling.
The sums would then be transferred forward to other accounts to conceal the identity of the owners of these funds.
Estimated to be active since September 2020, the criminal network is suspected of laundering millions of euros of criminal proceeds. More than EUR 44 million has been received on accounts linked to the criminal group, while the criminal origin of a further EUR 5 million has already been identified.
The investigation revealed that 44 individuals were involved in these criminal activities, 10 of which organised the activity, while 34 were acting as strawmen. The strawmen, generally coming from a more vulnerable socio-economic environment, provided their personal information in exchange for minimal compensation.