Three suspects have been detained by Israeli police for allegedly using cryptocurrency transactions to launder millions of euros taken from the French treasury. Government grants for companies impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic provided the funding.
This week, three people were detained in Israel on suspicion of helping criminals who conned the French government with money-laundering services. The covert investigation was conducted by Lahav 433—Israel’s elite crime-fighting unit, according to major local media and the English-language online newspaper Times of Israel.
The authorities, according to the publications, think the people who have been arrested have used different cryptocurrencies to launder millions of euros, which were later returned to the French clients in exchange for payment to the Israelis. As part of the investigation into the scheme, a number of additional suspects have also been questioned.
In addition to Lahav 433 and the Israel Tax Authority, the State Attorney’s Office’s cybercrime and international crime departments also participated in these investigations. According to the reports, the Israel Police worked closely with their French counterparts and the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol).
The French started their investigation last year, while the Israelis began working on the case earlier in 2022. The fraudsters in France took advantage of the government program to assist organizations affected by the Covid-19 pandemic’s negative effects in 2020 and 2021, when the European economy was impacted by lockdowns.
The French thieves were able to apply for and obtain government-approved compensation payments by creating fictitious companies. Paris wanted to disburse the money as soon as possible to help businesses that were struggling financially and had insufficient oversight.
They then used the arrested Israelis’ money-laundering services, paying them to purchase cryptocurrency and exchange it for multiple coins to hide the funds’ original source before eventually purchasing fiat money once more. Police officials declined to provide a detailed explanation of the system’s operation but promised to do so soon.