A fraud involving false investments in bitcoins, diamonds or gold, which killed 85 people in France and Belgium, for damage of 6 million euros, was dismantled thanks to international police cooperation.
The case, and its details, were presented in Nancy on Wednesday January 29, during a press conference gathering representatives of the French, Belgian and Israeli courts, of Eurojust, the unit of judicial cooperation of the European Union , and Europol, the European criminal police agency – which published a press release on the subject.
€ 6 million loss
“The operating method, which was particularly effective, consisted in offering victims, contacted by telephone, to make a first investment in bitcoins, diamonds or gold on fake websites quickly revealing the fairly significant promised capital gains (…), between 5% and 35% “, detailed the prosecutor of Nancy, François Pérain. The newspaper East Republican, he explained that the victims were “Lambda”, of the order of “Mr. Tout-le-Monde”.
For the “Lure”, the perpetrators could “Reimburse certain victims for their initial bet, increased by pseudo-capital gains or interest”, he added at the press conference. French and Belgian victims were then contacted to carry out “More” interesting “operations, but which required much larger investments”.
Then, “Victims' funds were transferred to” bouncing bank accounts “opened in various European Union states before being quickly transferred to Asian or Turkish accounts “Detailed Mr. Pérain.
The damage amounts to 6 million euros and, on the basis of false invoices discovered during the investigations, the investigators estimate “The harm avoided” more than 8 million euros. 85 victims, including 64 in France, were identified, with losses of up to 100,000 euros for a French, 500,000 euros for a Belgian.
“Very skilful and very strong”
“There are people who have lost all their savings. Sometimes it’s the savings of a lifetime that’s spent in the pockets of these crooks. (…) Among the victims, we have all the profiles. Because the crooks are really very clever and very strong on the phone. Many people are ashamed afterwards and do not file complaints ”, said Colonel François Desrés, commander of the Strasbourg research section, which was responsible for the investigation with the gendarmes of Metz. However, seizures were carried out in France and Luxembourg for almost a million euros, which should make it possible to partially compensate the victims, according to the prosecutor.
A “Important society” and a metropolis were also the subject of an attempted scam on false transfer orders, another scam that had been set up by the same gang of scammers.
The investigation had started after the complaint of a saver, in Sélestat (Bas-Rhin), who had lost 15,000 euros. Judicial information was opened in the spring of 2018 by the specialized interregional jurisdiction (JIRS) of Nancy, then a joint Franco-Belgian investigation team was created, with the support of Eurojust and Europol.
Suspects in Israel
In this case, four people were charged in January 2019: a man responsible for opening bank accounts and three performers. Three of them are currently in pre-trial detention. Investigations continue, arrest warrants could be issued, accompanied by possible extradition requests.
Five suspects were also interviewed in Israel in late 2019, as part of an international letter rogatory. One of them, 45, “Is suspected of being the principal of the scams in France and in Belgium”, reported Mr. Pérain. This Franco-Israeli “Was already sentenced in 2012 by the Paris criminal court to a heavy prison sentence and a fine in the context of a spectacular fraud in the carbon tax”, detailed the prosecutor.
according to East Republican, the suspect emerged free from questioning in Israel. An international arrest warrant and an extradition request concerning him could, however, soon be issued against him by an examining magistrate in Nancy, according to the regional daily.