Judicial and law enforcement authorities in Bulgaria, supported by Europol and Eurojust, have taken down a network of online investment fraudsters involved in money laundering. On the action day on 26 January, officers from the Bulgarian National Police arrested one suspect for defrauding mainly German and Greek investors of at least EUR 10 million. During the action day, a total of 24 locations were searched, while officers interrogated 66 witnesses in Sofia and Burgas. Furthermore, a variety of electronic equipment, financial information and recordings were seized.
Europol deployed two experts on the ground in Bulgaria to facilitate the information exchange and provide real-time operational analysis and technical expertise. Eurojust coordinated the joint action day and provided cross-border judicial support. The national authorities deployed around one hundred officers and prosecutors during the action day.
The scam was exposed after complaints were made by German and Greek investors who had lost all of the deposits they had invested in the online scam. The organised crime group responsible had set up websites and call centres that appeared to be legitimate but were actually fraudulent.
The fraudulent activity was conducted by two call centres. While acting as financial consultants, call operators speaking German, Greek, English and Spanish contacted potential investors with promises of significant profits. As a result, several hundred victims made substantial investments but subsequently lost all of their money.
In 2019, Bulgarian authorities started investigations and Eurojust set up a joint investigation team (JIT) between Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Serbia and Europol. Following five coordination meetings with Europol and Eurojust, the JIT members were able to identify the two fraudulent call centres in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian police, supported by the Serbian* authorities, dismantled both call centres on the action day.
In 2020, a similar modus operandi was used in another case and a coordinated action day led to the dismantling of two other call centres.
The following authorities participated in the operation:
Law enforcement authorities:
- Bulgaria: Economic Crime Department, General Directorate National Police; National State Security Authority and Regional Directorate of the Ministry of Interior - Burgas.
- Germany: Criminal Investigation Department Bayreuth: Federal Criminal Police Office, Wiesbaden
- Greece: Cybercrime Division of the Hellenic Police
- Serbia: Criminal Police Directorate, Service for Combating Organized Crime, Department for Cyber Crime
- Bulgaria: Specialised Prosecution Office of Sofia
- Germany: Office of the Public Prosecutor General of Bamberg; Bavarian Central Office for Prosecution of Cybercrime
- Greece: General Prosecutor's Office of the Supreme Court; Special Investigative Judge for Mutual Legal Assistance in criminal matters at the Court of First Instance of Athens; the competent Investigative Judge of the Court of First Instance of Athens; the competent Investigative Judge of the Court of First Instance of Thessaloniki
- Republic Public Prosecution Office and Special Prosecution Office for High-Tech Crime of Serbia
* Serbia is one of the ten third countries with a Liaison Prosecutor at Eurojust.
This operation was carried out as part of the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT).
EMPACT tackles the most important threats posed by organised and serious international crime affecting the EU. EMPACT strengthens intelligence, strategic and operational cooperation between national authorities, EU institutions and bodies, and international partners. EMPACT runs in four-year cycles focusing on common EU crime priorities. Fraud, economic and financial crimes are among the priorities for the 2021-2025 Policy Cycle.