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Economic Fraud

Luxury Cars and Rolex Watches Seized in Massive EU Covid-19 Fund Fraud Scheme!

Massive fraud crackdown: 20+ arrests, luxury seizures in €600M EU fund scam. Unveiling a cross-border operation’s shocking findings.



Luxury Cars and Rolex Watches Seized in Massive EU Covid-19 Fund Fraud Scheme!

Europol and national police forces across Europe dealt a major blow to organized crime on Thursday, arresting over 20 suspects in a massive fraud scheme targeting the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund.

Italy at the Center of the Investigation

The investigation, spearheaded by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), focused on Italy, the largest beneficiary of the fund with nearly €192 billion allocated.  Authorities suspect a criminal organization infiltrated the system, diverting €600 million meant for Italian businesses.

Luxury Cars, Crypto, and Fake Companies: A Sophisticated Operation

Police raids across Italy, Austria, Slovakia, and Romania netted eight arrests, with an additional fourteen placed under house arrest.  Investigators seized a treasure trove of assets, including luxury cars, cryptocurrency, precious metals, and even apartments and villas.

The alleged criminal network, according to Italian financial police, comprised professionals adept at navigating public funding applications.  They are accused of securing tens of millions of euros for fictitious projects designed to boost Italian businesses’ competitiveness and digitalization.

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Laundering Millions with Tech and Fake Firms

Authorities unravelled a complex web of money laundering. A statement from Italy’s financial police detailed a “refined money-laundering apparatus” employing “advanced technologies” like cloud servers, cryptocurrencies, and AI-generated fake documents.  The network allegedly set up a maze of fictitious companies across several European countries to further obfuscate the illicit profits.

EU Recovery Fund a Target for Crime

This operation highlights the growing threat of criminal organizations targeting EU funds.  The EPPO reported a staggering increase in fraud investigations related to the €800 billion Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) – from just 15 in 2022 to over 200 in 2023.  Recovery fund probes now constitute 15% of all EPPO investigations.

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Italy Under Scrutiny

Italy faces particular scrutiny, with 179 open investigations into its use of the recovery funds.  The EPPO report suggests a worrying trend across the bloc – with a quarter of investigations involving fictitious companies or bribery of public officials.

This major bust sends a strong message to criminals attempting to exploit the EU’s recovery efforts.  Continued vigilance and cooperation between national and European authorities will be crucial in safeguarding these vital funds meant to bolster Europe’s post-pandemic recovery.

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