Israel police arrested three people in France on Monday morning on suspicion of operating a money-laundering service on behalf of criminals who defrauded the French government with millions of euros.
Police said the suspects are believed to have used various cryptocurrencies to launder money and then returned it as “clean money” to French fraudsters.
It is not clear how the alleged money launderers in Israel were remunerated for their services.
Several other suspects were taken into custody for questioning in connection with the scheme.
French police launched their investigation last year, and earlier this year Israeli authorities launched their covert investigation.
The Israeli investigation is being carried out by the Lahav 433 Special Crime Unit and the Yahlom Investigation Unit of the Israel Tax Authority in collaboration with French police and the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol), assisted by the Cybercrime Department and the International Security Council. The Crime Department of the State Attorney’s Office.
According to police, fraudsters in France took advantage of compensation paid by the French government to businesses that were negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns in 2020 and 2021.
These criminal elements set up bogus businesses and were able to apply for and receive COVID-19 compensation payments, as the French government disbursed these funds rapidly and with insufficient oversight, so that financially suffering businesses owners to be helped immediately, given the severe economic downturn. In view of the pandemic.
The fraudsters then found themselves taking advantage of the money-laundering services of the arrested suspects in Israel.
The suspects allegedly used these illegally obtained funds to buy cryptocurrencies and then converted those funds into different cryptocurrencies in order to obscure the money’s original source.
Eventually, the money was converted back to traditional currency and returned to the fraudsters who started the money-laundering service.
Police have declined to fully explain the exact cryptocurrency money-laundering mechanism, but have said that more details will be provided in the coming weeks.