By the end of 2022, scammers shifted their focus to duping crypto investors who were desperately trying to recoup their year-long losses. An international law enforcement operation led by European government agencies joined crypto entrepreneurs and businesses to curb cross-border crypto scams in July 2022, uncovering a criminal network operating through call centres.
Law enforcement and judicial authorities from Bulgaria, Cyprus, Germany and Serbia, supported by Europol and Eurojust, have teamed up against organized crime groups involved in online investment fraud. This criminal network, comprising a number of different criminal actors operating through call centres, lured victims into investing large amounts of money in fake cryptocurrency schemes. Europol set up an Operational Task Force to support the cross-border investigation.
A day of action on 11 January 2022 led to:
- 15 arrests, including 14 in Serbia and one in Germany;
- 261 individuals questioned (42 in Bulgaria, 2 in Cyprus, 3 in Germany and 214 in Serbia), some of whom are awaiting prosecution;
- 22 locations searched (15 in Serbia, 2 in Cyprus, 5 in Bulgaria) including: 4 call centres and 11 residences in Serbia; 2 residences in Cyprus; 2 companies and 3 residences in Bulgaria.
- Seizures including 3 hardware wallets containing around USD 1 million in cryptocurrencies and around EUR 50,000 in cash, 3 vehicles, electronic equipment and data backups, and documents.
This is the second high-profile crypto-related criminal case since the start of the year, which already saw the US Securities and Exchange Commission charge six individuals for their role in CoinDeal, a fraudulent scheme that allegedly lured more than USD 45 million from thousands of investors worldwide.