Police arrested 20 Israelis on suspicions 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 that the suspects posed as executives of companies and provided creditors with fraudulent bank accounts.
While the alleged network’s operational center is in Israel, the network is connected to areas around the world.
Police said the suspects used computer platforms to falsely represent themselves as foreign companies, with profits numbering in the tens of millions of dollars and euros, transferred from abroad to Israel.
The suspects are said to have forged documents, used straw men to open bank accounts, and used fictitious company names and protected their collaborators abroad using 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 suspects will be brought to the Rishon Lezion Magistrates Court on Wednesday where police are seeking to extend their remands.
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 is for publicity of the police of Israel and the Lahav 433 [investigative] unit,” Margolov told TOT, “I have a significant doubt of the existence of actual evidence in this case.”
“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,” a police spokeswoman for the Intelligence and Investigations Division said in a statement.
Police said that Israel is becoming a center for these type of online international fraud offenses.
“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 police said in a statement, adding that 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.”
The national police fraud unit headed the investigation in cooperation with the Israel Tax Authority and the Israel Money Laundering and Terror Financing Prohibition Authority, accompanied by Tel Aviv State Prosecutor’s Office.