Hungarian police arrest gang that was laundering money through ‘straw men’
Hungarian authorities have dismantled a criminal organization suspected of laundering millions of euros in illicit proceeds and committing fraud using administrative documents, European Union Police – Europol said in a statement. statement.
The Budapest Metropolitan Police raided 24 houses, questioned 16 suspects and arrested five. During the operation, funds were seized in 32 countries across Europe, Australia and South America, the statement said.
The investigation revealed that the criminal organization has been operational since September 2020 and that its members have formed a number of companies without significant economic activities and acquired other companies using front men.
“The suspects opened bank accounts in the name of these companies to be used in a chain as part of a money laundering scheme. The bank accounts received transfers from other accounts based in different countries; these assets came from usually invoice fraud or a cryptocurrency scam,” Europol explained.
The money would then be transferred to other accounts to hide the identity of the owners of the funds, the statement read.
The investigation identified 44 people participating in these illicit actions, of which 10 were organizers and 34 acted as front men. The straw men mostly came from low-income backgrounds and gave their personal information in exchange for a small amount of money.
Some of them worked with members of the criminal network while removing and moving assets for their own account. Unlike frauds outside of Hungary, the straw men were only connected to the scam through recruiters and were primarily involved in the money laundering process, the statement said.
“More than 44 million euros ($46.16 million) have been collected from accounts linked to the criminal group, while the criminal origin of another 5 million euros ($5.35 million) has already been identified,” according to Europol.
Police also seized “a high-end vehicle, large amounts of electronic equipment, cell phones and SIM cards, data storage devices, payment cards, weapons and ammunition, jewelry, a pledge ticket worth approximately 740 euros (792 USD) and the equivalent of more than 120,000 euros (128,612 $) in cash in various currencies.