The Portuguese Judicial Police and Europol have reportedly claimed victory in an investigation that sought to hunt down a group labeled as the 'second-largest counterfeiting gang in Europe.'
According to a Monday press release by Europol, the authorities arrested five people associated with the creation of fake banknotes which were subsequently shipped to buyers in different European countries including France, Germany, Spain, and Portugal.
The Brazilian news agency, Sputnik afterward revealed further details regarding the investigation, mentioning that the leader of the group who is now extradited in Colombia, advertised his business online in a darkweb market. When he receives an order from clients, he passes the information to the other four who produced the fake banknotes in Portugal and mailed them to their buyers.
Regarding the nature of the banknotes, an expert Manuel Mourato quoted in the report said,
“These are notes with many security features included. It is one of the highest quality counterfeits seized in Europe."
Luís Ribeiro, the Coordinator of Criminal Investigation at the Portuguese Judiciary Police agreed, affirming that the notes are “often only detected when entering bank deposits” and in terms of normal trade “pass quite easily.”
The counterfeiting scheme has reportedly been in operation since 2017 with the man collecting Bitcoin from his clients in exchange for the fake banknotes that he sent them. In other words, he was swapping fiat to hard untraceable currency, Bitcoin and had collected at least $1.45 million worth of the cryptocurrency according to Sputnik.
Meanwhile, the Europol update mentioned that authorities recovered several counterfeit banknotes worth over €1.3 million ($1.4 million) across cities in the major European countries, and also seized the several tools used by the counterfeiters to produce the notes.
As the records show, this is not the first time that Europol is involved in busting a crypto-related crime.
In June, Stmarket.co reported that Europol arrested six people (five men and one woman) alleged to be behind a €24 million (appr. $27 million) cryptocurrency theft. Back in May, the Europol was also involved in an investigation that culminated in the shutdown of cryptocurrency mixing service provider, Bestmixer.io.