Indonesian Police Arrest Medical Supplies Fraudsters

Published: 16 September 2020

Indonesia Italy InterpolAn international crime syndicate tricked an Italian company into paying US$4.33 million for non-existent medical equipment. (Photo: Interpol)

By Zdravko Ljubas

Police in Indonesia arrested three suspected members of an international crime syndicate that tricked an Italian company into paying 3.67 million euro (US$4.33 million) for non-existent medical equipment, Interpol said Tuesday.

As the COVID-19 pandemic was spreading across the country, an Italian company started planning in May to buy medical supplies from a Chinese company, including ventilators and COVID-19 monitoring equipment.

The crime group infiltrated the email correspondence between the two companies and convinced the Italian buyers to make three bank transfers to an account they controlled in Indonesia.

“Believing they were paying the legitimate supplier, the company made the transfers,” and, without knowing it, “fell victim to a business email compromise (BEC) fraud,” read the statement.

Without disclosing details, Interpol said the fraud was quickly discovered and the agency swiftly established communication between Italian and Indonesian authorities.

The Jakarta-Rome cooperation resulted in the interception and freezing of 3.1 million euro ($3.66 million) of the fraudulent payments in early June, Interpol said.

The law enforcement agencies of the two countries continued to share information, such as “critical investigative details,” outlining the steps for securing the frozen assets and locating the suspects behind the crime.

“Thanks to the timely action of the Italian and Indonesian authorities using Interpol channels, this fraud was detected, the majority of the fraudulent payments stopped before reaching the criminals, and the individuals behind this scam will face justice,” Interpol’s Assistant Director of Criminal Networks, José de Gracia, said.