EUR 1 million in assets seized in hit against ID forgers Italian authorities arrest nine suspects for counterfeiting identity documents and African currency
On 7 February, Europol supported the Italian Carabinieri Corps (Arma dei Carabinieri) and the Malta Police Force (Pulizija) in an operation against a criminal network involved in the facilitation of illegal immigration, document fraud and currency counterfeiting. The action day led to nine arrests in Naples, Italy, and the dismantling of seven counterfeiting print shops. The seizures include hundreds of false identification documents, forgery equipment and materials as well as other assets, together worth a total value of about EUR 1 million.
The Carabinieri Anti-Money Counterfeiting Command of Rome initiated the investigation into this criminal network in September 2020. This uncovered that the suspected members had allegedly facilitated illegal immigration through the production and dissemination of fake driving licences, registration documents, and national identification documents. The criminal network is also suspected of forging and trafficking foreign currency banknotes.
Faking EU IDs and Congolese francs
The criminal group was particularly active in Italy and Malta, where they disseminated large quantities of blank false passports to irregular migrants from sub-Saharan and Middle Eastern countries. The forged documents, which were of particularly high quality, enabled the migrants to board flights from Malta and Italy towards a number of destinations in Western Europe. Authorities seized many of these forged documents in Belgium, Switzerland, France and Italy.
The investigation also uncovered that the criminal group was involved in a number of other criminal activities, including the concealment of stolen vehicles and the production of large quantities of counterfeit 20 000 Congolese franc notes. It is estimated that counterfeit banknotes with a total value of 54 million Congolese francs (about EUR 18 000) were produced with the intention of being introduced into the in the financial system of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Europol supported this investigation by facilitating information exchange, coordinating operational activities and providing tailored operational analytical support. During the action day, Europol deployed two expert to Italy – one specialist in migrant smuggling and one in currency counterfeiting – to support the field activities by crosschecking the operational information collected in real-time. Europol also provided operational analysis to help deliver possible leads to investigators on the ground.