More than 49 suspected members of the criminal group have had their collars felt, and 58 properties were searched. Authorities seized laptops, hard disks, telephones, tablets, credit cards and cash, SIM cards, memory sticks, forged documents and bank account documents.
It was coordinated by Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) and Eurojust, led by the Italian Polizia di Stato (Postal and Communications Police), the Spanish National Police, the Polish Police Central Bureau of Investigation, and supported by UK law enforcement bodies.
Investigations have revealed international fraud totalling EUR 6 million, accumulated within a very short time.
The group used man-in-the-middle attacks against medium and large European companies through hacking (malware) and social engineering techniques.
Once access to companies’ corporate email accounts was secured, the offenders monitored communications to detect payment requests.
The company’s customers were then requested by the cybercriminals to send their payments to bank accounts controlled by the criminal group. These payments were immediately cashed out through different means. The suspects, mainly from Nigeria, Cameroon and Spain, transferred the profits outside the European Union through a sophisticated money laundering network.
It was a pretty impressive operation, given the fact that it was carried out by the same branch of the Italian police force who can’t stop parcels being stolen from the Rome post office.
A coordination centre was established at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague. Representatives from law enforcement agencies participating in the action day were present in the coordination centre, facilitating international information exchange along with Eurojust. At the same time, Europol specialists provided operational support on the ground in Italy and Spain, through the deployment of Europol mobile offices.