100 arrested in €10m cyber fraud linked to Italian mafia

Group also accused of money laundering and drug trafficking after Spanish police carry out multiple raids

More than 100 people linked to the Italian mafia have been arrested in Spain in connection with a €10 million cyber fraud.

Spanish police carried out raids across the Canary Islands in connection with an online fraud using phishing attacks.

Italian police supported Spain in the investigation into online fraud, money laundering, drug trafficking and property crime.

Europe's crime agency Europol said it had dismantled the crime ring, which it linked to the Italian mafia.

"The suspects defrauded hundreds of victims through phishing attacks and other types of online fraud," Europol said.

The crime group was said to have used SIM swapping, compromised business emails to obtain funds and laundered proceeds through "a wide network of money mules and shell companies".

Police said the group made an estimated €10 million ($11.7m) in illegal profit last year.

A total of 106 people were arrested and 16 homes searched, while police froze 118 bank accounts and seized 224 credit cards.

"This large criminal network was very well organised in a pyramid structure, which included different specialised areas and roles," Europol said.

"Among the members of the criminal group were computer experts, who created the phishing domains and carried out the cyber fraud; recruiters and organisers of the money muling; and money laundering experts, including experts in cryptocurrencies.

"Most of the suspected members are Italian nationals, some of whom have links to mafia organisations. The suspects tricked their victims, mainly Italian nationals, into sending large sums to bank accounts controlled by the criminal network.

"They then laundered the criminal proceeds through a wide network of money mules and shell companies."

During the operation, Europol sent two analysts and one forensic expert to Tenerife, Spain and one analyst to Italy. It also sent three Italian investigators to Tenerife to support the Spanish authorities on action day.

The Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce at Europol supported the operation.

Updated: September 21st 2021, 3:12 PM
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