Police crack one of Europe's largest counterfeit currency networks worth £1.16m

Raids have been carried out across Portugal to crush dark web fraud

European police have foiled an attempt to cheat German health authorities out of millions of euros by selling them non-existent face masks during the coronavirus pandemic. Europol
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A European police force has dismantled one of the largest counterfeiting currency networks operating across the continent.

The £1.16m fraud ring was operating on the dark web.

Officers from Europol joined forces with the Portuguese Judicial Police to carry out a number of raids.

Five people have been arrested and are accused of counterfeiting and organised crime.

Counterfeit banknotes were seized across Europe, notably in France, Germany, Spain and Portugal, worth over 1.3 million Euros.

Following the investigation, eight searches have been carried out at homes and businesses in Portugal.

Law enforcement officers have seized 1,833 counterfeit banknotes, including 1,290 €50 banknotes and 543 €10 banknotes, totalling €69,930.

Materials relating to the production of counterfeit notes were also seized, including computers, printers, security paper with security thread incorporation, holograms and self-adhesive holographic bands, ultraviolet inks and ink cartridges.

Europol has jointly worked on the operation since the beginning with counterfeit and dark web experts.

The European law enforcement agency provided the Portuguese authorities with analytical and operational support, including an analyst was who was deployed for on-the-spot support during the raids.

In March Europol joined forces with Spanish National Police to dismantle a counterfeit euro print shop in Spain.

The specialised crime ring, based in Tenerife, manufactured fake banknotes in 10 and 20 euro denominations, earning the gang around €7,500 every month.

Operation Malla began in July last year when investigators from the Brigade of Investigation of the Bank of Spain noted a significant increase in fake €10 banknotes in the Tenerife, Spain.

The criminals circulated the money as legal currency exploiting all kinds of businesses in the Canary Islands.

The largest counterfeiting ring was smashed in 2012, when raids across Colombia uncovered two illegal print shops generating almost £4m in counterfeit currency.

As the European Union's Central Office for Combating Euro Counterfeiting, Europol facilitates the exchange of information and provides expertise, criminal and forensic analysis, training, financial and technical support to law enforcement agencies inside and outside the European Union.