Police Across Europe Target More Boiler Room Scams
Bank accounts in more than 20 European countries have been frozen as part of a multi-country investigation targeting online investment schemes in EU member states, Georgia and Ukraine, Eurojust said Tuesday.
Eurojust, the European Union’s criminal justice cooperation agency, coordinated the investigation in which investors lost millions of euros.
The probe was requested by the Swiss authorities after the Bern Cantonal Police identified a group perpetrating the online investment scams, also known as boiler room scams.
According to Eurojust and the Bern Police, the investigation began in October 2019 when a victim filed a complaint with Swiss authorities. It identified bogus call centers and websites of alleged financial trading firms in Ukraine and Georgia.
Although the investigation was temporarily halted owing to the war in Ukraine, targeted operations were carried out in 23 countries by the end of 2022, resulting in searches and the freezing of assets and bank accounts.
Most victims were Swiss and German investors lured by more than 100 fake websites appearing to be professional investment companies providing financial transactions in cryptocurrencies and trading options.
According to Eurojust, potential investors who expressed interest were solicited over the phone and persuaded to invest large sums that were ultimately lost.
A similar operation was launched less than a year ago by European authorities against hundreds of people suspected of running a massive investment fraud network exposed by OCCRP in a 2020 investigation.
Back then, police and prosecutors from Albania, Bulgaria, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Latvia, North Macedonia, Spain, Sweden, and Ukraine collaborated on an “unprecedented” cross-border investigation that resulted in the arrests of five suspects and the confiscation of hundreds of thousands of euros in cash, cryptocurrency wallets, properties, and bank accounts.
Eurojust also oversaw last year’s raids on 15 call centers in Albania, Bulgaria, Georgia, North Macedonia, and Ukraine, including the Kyiv office of a company formerly known as the “Milton Group,” which OCCRP and its Swedish partner, Dagens Nyheter, exposed as part of the joint “Fraud Factory” investigation in 2020.
However, the Bern Cantonal Police told OCCRP they are “not aware of any possible connection” between the latest operation and the Milton Group case.