With the support of Europol and Frontex, two suspects were arrested on 12 September in a series of coordinated raids across Germany and Sweden in an investigation targeting a Syrian organised crime group suspected of cyber fraud. House searches were carried out in Aachen, Dortmund and Essen (Germany), and in Nörrköping, Malmö and Helsingborg (Sweden), where police recovered some EUR 54 000 and USD 55 000. The arrestees are believed to be the key organisers of a cyber fraud gang.
The German Federal Police initiated Operation GOLDRING in October 2017. The intelligence-led operation uncovered the organised crime group, composed of Syrian nationals, which was involved in fraudulently purchasing airline and train tickets. According to information from Germany, more than 493 fraudulent bookings were identified. In most cases the tickets were one way tickets from Beirut to European Member States. The tech-savvy smugglers avoided detection by making the bookings using compromised corporate credit cards and credentials, purchased online from other criminals offering them for sale (see: crime-as-a-service business model).
The fraudulent bookings were brought to the attention of law enforcement by the private sector, highlighting once again how instrumental public-private partnerships are in fighting this type of fraud. This effective working relationship has been established over the course of recent years as a result of Europol’s Global Airport Action Day, a recurrent operation bringing together law enforcement, the airline industry and payment card companies to target airline fraud. As part of this operation, Europol and Frontex have jointly identified significant crossovers between payment card fraud and irregular migration and trafficking in human beings, leading to a number of arrests in recent years. The operational successes of today have confirmed this trend.
Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) actively supported the investigation from the outset, assisting with identifying suspects and exchanging information with other law enforcement authorities through Europol’s secure communication channels. A Europol mobile office was deployed to Germany, allowing for the real-time exchange of operational information between all involved parties.
The information seized on the action day will now be analysed to identify any new international links.