Hungarian police broke up a gang that used “straw” to launder money

Hungarian police broke up a gang that used "straw" to launder money

The European Union’s police – Europol – stated in a statement that Hungarian officials stopped a criminal enterprise accused of laundering millions of euros in illicit earnings and committed fraud using administrative papers.

The criminal organisation has been operating since September 2020, according to the investigation, and its members have founded a number of companies with no substantial economic operations and purchased other companies through the use of strawmen.

The Budapest Metropolitan Police searched 24 homes, interrogated 16 suspects, and detained five of them. According to the announcement, cash were confiscated in 32 countries throughout Europe, Australia, and South America throughout the investigation.

“The suspects opened bank accounts in the name of these companies to be used in a chain within a money laundering scheme. The bank accounts received transfers from other accounts based in different countries; these assets usually originated from invoice fraud or cryptocurrency-related swindling,” Europol explained.

The investigation identified 44 people participating in these illicit actions, 10 of whom were organizers and 34 were acting as strawmen. The strawmen mostly came from a low-income environment and gave their personal information in exchange for a small sum of money.

The cash would subsequently be moved to other accounts in order to obscure the identity of the funds’ owners, read the statement.

Some of them worked with members of the criminal network while withdrawing and moving assets for their own account. In contrast to the frauds performed outside of Hungary, the strawmen were only related to the scam through recruiters and were primarily involved in the money laundering process, according to the statement.

“More than 44 million euro (US$46.16 million) has been received on accounts linked to the criminal group, while the criminal origin of a further 5 million euro ($5.35 million) has already been identified,” according to Europol.

Police also seized “one high-end vehicle, large quantities of electronic equipment, mobile phones and sim cards, data storage devices, payment cards, weapons and ammunitions, jewelry, pledge ticket for a value of about 740 euro (US$792) and the equivalent of more than 120,000 euro ($128,612) cash in different currencies.

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