On 28 May the French National Gendarmerie - Section de Recherches of Bordeaux, supported by the Israeli authorities and Europol, arrested the main suspects of an organised crime group behind a total of 24 cases if CEO fraud across Europe to the detriment of Belgian and French-based commercial companies, causing more than EUR 18 million worth of damage.
In the framework of this large-scale CEO fraud operation, seven individuals had been already arrested in previous phases of the investigation in Belgium and France through coordinated actions, also supported by Europol. This investigation is the follow-up of systematic operational activities initiated in 2016 when two French companies fell victim to CEO fraud, incurring an estimated EUR 1.2 million financial loss. The continued investigative efforts made by the French investigators, along with the substantial information exchange and analysis, allowed them to identify and locate four individuals operating from Israel considered to be the masterminds of the busted criminal ring.
Over the course of the action, four suspects were arrested, and relevant house searches were performed in Israel, also resulting in the seizure of computers, phones and financial information to be sent for further examination. The operation was developed by France in cooperation with investigators from Belgium, Israel, Romania and continued support from Europol, with several meetings and action days carried out throughout the investigation. The French National Gendarmerie, with support from the Israeli Lahav 433 Unit, participated in four house searches and arrests in different locations in Israel.
Europol Deputy Executive Director of Operations Wil Gemert stated: "Incidents of CEO fraud (where the impersonation of CEOs is a key part of the modus operandi) have increased significantly in recent years and we are now at a point where EU-based companies are being swindled out of hundreds of million euros every year. Since the fraudsters often operate from outside the EU, it is only with internationally coordinated operations and a strong focus on asset recovery that we can achieve meaningful successes in the fight against this crime."