Police cyber crime unit.
(photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
Police arrested 20 Israelis on suspicion of participating in a large international fraud and blackmail network that scammed tens of millions of dollars and euros from companies around the world.
Police believe the suspects posed as executives of companies and provided creditors with fraudulent bank accounts. While its operational center is allegedly in Israel, the network is connected to areas around the world. Police said the suspects used computer platforms to falsely represent themselves as representatives of foreign companies, making tens of millions of dollars and euros in transfers from abroad to Israel.
The suspects are said to have used straw men with forged documents to open bank accounts for fictitious companies, protecting their collaborators abroad by means of blackmail and extortion.
The 20 suspects are accused of committing fraud, fraud in aggravated circumstances, extortion, aggravated forgery, conspiracy to commit a crime, tax offenses, managing a criminal organization and money laundering.
The 20 suspects had their remands extended between six and 13 days in the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday.
Lawyer Coby Margolov, who represents one of the accused, said he believes the charges are a police publicity stunt.
“Mostly the charges that my client is accused of are for publicity of the police of Israel and the Lahav 433 [investigative] unit,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “I have a significant doubt of the existence of actual evidence in this case.”
A statement from the Intelligence and Investigations Division said, “The findings of this undercover investigation that was conducted for over a year and a half, found that the activity of this network is ongoing, wide-ranging and embraces many countries.”
Police said that Israel is becoming a center for these types of online fraud.
“These international scams, known as “social engineering” and performed in various ways, are an international fraud method which is gaining momentum in recent years,” the statement said, adding that the offenses are “creating unprecedented damage to the image of the State of Israel as a center for exporting these types of fraud offenses.”
A national fraud unit headed the investigation in cooperation with the Israel Tax Authority and the Israel Money Laundering and Terror Financing Prohibition Authority, accompanied by the Tel Aviv State Attorney’s Office.