Police in Budapest have dismantled a criminal organisation involved in industrial-scale money laundering and fraud, according to Europol.
Officers descended on 24 homes in the Hungarian capital on May 9. Sixteen people were arrested, including five on suspicion of moving some €44 million in illicit funds through bank accounts across three continents.
The criminal network to which they allegedly belonged, Europol said, was set up in September 2020 and sought to launder the proceeds of crime: mostly fraud and cryptocurrency-related swindles.
The joint investigation uncovered an array of 'front' companies with no record of meaningful activities, as well as others bought by 'strawmen' who handed over their personal information in exchange for compensation.
The suspects opened bank accounts in the names of these companies to be used in a wider money laundering scheme. The accounts received transfers from others in different countries, then sent them on to still others.
Police found tens of millions of euros stashed in 32 countries across Europe, South America and Australia. During the raids they also seized firearms and ammunition, computers, mobile phones and SIM cards, payment cards, jewellery and more than €120,000 in cash in different currencies. In total, Europol said, they were aware of 44 people believed to be involved in the scheme.