A global network of online scammers has been dismantled, with the brain of the operation arrested in Larnaca in connection with €18 million worth of damages caused by internet fraud.
Last month, dozens of home searches were carried out in several European countries, with Cyprus police arresting the head of the criminal organisation on a European warrant.
The suspect, described as a 35-year-old male and Larnaca permanent resident, was arrested on June 12 in his home, as part of a massive operation codenamed Warenagent.
The arrest in Cyprus set off a number of 14 more arrests in other countries, including Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Switzerland, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.
These schemes are often disguised as legitimate job opportunities and the mules may receive a commission for their service
Europol and Eurojust had been on the case for six years, since 2012, tracking more than 35,000 cases of internet fraud.
In all cases, high-quality goods were ordered from mail order companies using fraudulently obtained credit card data through a network of merchandise agents.
According to Europol, the recipients of these goods, known as package mules, were mostly recruited in Germany. After receiving the illegally obtained goods, the package mules were asked to send the packages to new addresses, primarily in Eastern Europe.
These schemes are often disguised as legitimate job opportunities and the mules may receive a commission for their service. They were used as intermediaries and played a crucial role in online payment fraud as criminal networks gain access to the stolen goods or funds without revealing their identity.
The perpetrators used codenames and encrypted access in the network.
The investigation focused on the criminals’ use of cryptocurrencies, while discovering a well-organised operation of criminals who were responsible for providing IT infrastructure, recruiting package mules, coordinating criminal activity and laundering money.
The operation was conducted by the German Prosecutor’s Office of Dresden, the Saxon State Office of Criminal Investigation, the Lithuanian Police and the Lithuanian Prosecutor's Office, with help from Europol and Eurojust at the international level.