French and Bulgarian law enforcement authorities have joined forces with Europol and Eurojust to successfully disrupt the activities of an international organised crime group active worldwide. The criminals have been responsible for an international payment card scam, producing counterfeit payment cards and performing illegal transactions in many EU Member States, as well as in Australia, Kenya, United States, and the Republic of South Africa.
Following the execution of arrest warrants, Europol supported French and Bulgarian law enforcement authorities to carry out five house searches, resulting in the arrest of nine suspects in Bulgaria and France. During the whole Operation 'Green Lips', named after the peculiar type of card skimmers deployed by the group, police seized skimming devices, hard disks, equipment used to illegally copy card data and data on thousands of compromised cards. The criminals had been responsible for ATM skimming, exchanging compromised credit card data via the internet and then using the counterfeit cards worldwide. The estimated losses caused by their purchases exceed one million euros.
During the raids carried out in Bulgaria by the Inter-regional Directorate of Judicial Police of Lyon (DIPJ-Lyon), the National Investigative Service, the General Directorate for Combating Organised Crime, and Europol, the Europol mobile office was deployed to coordinate the international operation and provide access to Europol's intelligence databases. Investigators from the Member States involved made use of Europolls analytical, tactical and technical support capabilities.
Eurojust successfully facilitated cooperation and coordination between judicial and law enforcement authorities of the involved countries. In particular, one coordination meeting was held at Eurojust premises to facilitate the sharing of evidence and the planning and coordination of operations in Bulgaria to dismantle the criminal network.
Payment card fraud has become a global problem. Criminals with access to compromised payment card data distributed via the internet, affect not only EU Member States but also non-EU countries. In such cases, crossborder cooperation and coordination of international investigations is crucial to effectively tackling this problem.