Take down of Austrian-based fraud scheme offering new type of crypto coin

Flags of Austria, Cyprus, Czech republic and logos of Europol and Eurojust

National authorities in Austria, Cyprus and the Czech Republic have taken decisive action against an online scam pretending to sell rights or tokens to an alleged new crypto currency. In a coordinated operation, supported by Eurojust and Europol, the six main suspects were arrested and six places were searched. In total, EUR 750.000 in assets, a property worth EUR 1.4 million and two cars were frozen/seized.

Between December 2017 and February 2018, the scammers pretended to have set up a genuine online trading company that had launched a new cryptocurrency. They offered 10 million tokens or respective rights to the new currency for sale. Investors paid them in regular crypto values such as bitcoin or ethereum. The Austrian-based fraudsters also claimed to have developed their own software and algorithm for the sale of the tokens, in order to gain credibility with investors. 

Crypto Scam

In February 2018, the perpetrators closed all their social media accounts and took the fake company’s homepage offline. This so-called exit scam made it clear to investors that they had been conned. They lost around EUR 6 million. Not all victims of the fraud have been identified at this stage.

Eurojust supported the action day against the online scam with a coordination centre, enabling real-time communication between all the authorities involved. This also enabled the rapid execution of European Arrest Warrants and search warrants. Europol assisted in the operation with a mobile office in Cyprus. Austrian police officers were present on the ground during a search in Cyprus. 

Europol’s specialists organised five operational meetings and worked closely with the Austrian desk at Eurojust, providing a holistic analysis picture of the investigation. In addition to supporting the Virtual Command Post set up at Eurojust, Europol deployed a specialist with mobile office to Cyprus in order to support the operational activities and facilitate the exchange of information.

The following authorities coordinated and supported the operations on the ground: 

  • Austria: Central Public Prosecutor´s Office for Combatting Economic Crimes and Corruption; Criminal Intelligence Service Austria – Cybercrime Competence Center (C4) 
  • Cyprus: Cyprus Police
  • Czech Republic: National Organised Crime Agency