Europol have supported Italian Carabinieri in arresting 12 people responsible for importing and distributing counterfeit euro coins from China.
The leader of the criminal group is thought to be operating from Shanghai, China, where he has links to a clandestine manufacturing facility and people to organise the shipping of the counterfeit money to Naples, Italy. On arrival in Italy, the coins are distributed throughout Europe by other members of the criminal group, led by the main suspect in Palermo, who is a Ghanaian national.
The 12 arrests were made last week, however the investigation started earlier this year and a number of counterfeit two euro coins were seized, along with telephone numbers of significant interest to the investigation. From this first seizure, investigators realised that the criminal group had the capability to produce a vast quantity of good quality fake coins, as the criminals were using sophisticated manufacturing techniques, very similar to those used to produce authentic coins.
An important seizure was made in September 2014 near Naples, where over half a million euros, in one and two euro denomination coins, were found hidden in a container, concealed in metal pipes.
An international taskforce was created after this seizure, consisting of experts from eight different EU countries. The taskforce and investigation was supported by Europol, who coordinated the action among all the European law enforcement agencies involved and provided intelligence analysis.