The Italian Financial Corps (Guardia di Finanza), the German Duisburg Police (Polizei Duisburg) and the Swiss Police of the Canton of Lucerne (Kantonspolizei Luzern), supported by Europol and Eurojust, dismantled a criminal network involved in fraud with public funds. The fraud was perpetrated through the use of so-called ‘white’ energy efficiency certificates, with criminals then laundering the illicit proceeds.
The action day on 23 September 2021 led to:
- 20 arrests (4 in Germany, 15 in Italy and 1 in Switzerland)
- Assets valued at up to €41 million were frozen, including bank accounts, financial assets, real estate and cryptocurrency
€27 million defrauded from energy efficiency funds
Between 2016 and 2020, the criminal network illegally obtained certifications for energy efficiency (“white” certificates), while receiving subsidies through fictitious projects. The so-called TEE certificates are attributed for energy efficiency by the national Italian regulators. The suspects used fake invoices as support documents, while requesting subsidies from the Italian authorities. In total, the criminal network illegally obtained about €27 million in subsidies from nationally distributed funds. Then, they transferred the illicit proceeds to bank accounts in Germany, Switzerland and other European countries.
The payments were made based on fictitious invoices, purporting to show transactions such as the acquisition of solar panels. The criminal profits were then withdrawn and the cash transported back to Italy, while a percentage went to an affiliated money-laundering network. The suspects used that scheme to launder more than €14 million. Investigators identified 113 individuals suspected to be involved in this criminal scheme.
Analysis and technical expertise to support fraud investigations
Europol supported the operational activities, facilitated the exchange of information and provided analytical support. During the action day, Europol provided real-time analytical support from its headquarters, cross-checking operational information against Europol’s databases and thus providing leads to investigators in the field. Europol also deployed two forensic experts to Germany to provide technical support to investigators from the national authorities.
Europol recently created the European Financial and Economic Crime Centre (EFECC) to increase synergies between economic and financial investigations and to strengthen its ability to support law enforcement authorities in effectively combating this major criminal threat.
Headquartered in The Hague, the Netherlands, Europol supports the 27 EU Member States in their fight against terrorism, cybercrime, and other serious and organised crime forms. Europol also works with many non-EU partner states and international organisations. From its various threat assessments to its intelligence-gathering and operational activities, Europol has the tools and resources it needs to do its part in making Europe safer.