The Hague, 26 April 2023
Judicial and law enforcement authorities in Germany, Estonia and Latvia have carried out a coordinated action against an organised crime group suspected of defrauding thousands of German companies. During a joint action day in all 3 countries, 3 suspects were arrested and 17 places searched. Investigators seized cash, illegal drugs and additional pieces of evidence. Moreover, over 300 bank accounts were frozen.
As in all EU countries, companies based in Germany are required by law to publish certain information in the national commercial register. This data is then published online on a dedicated website. The publications are subject to a fee, for which the registry courts issue invoices.
The members of the group allegedly used an automated process to retrieve new notices from the commercial register’s website and created fake invoices based on the data obtained. These unauthorised invoices were not only forged but also inflated, with amounts typically around EUR 850. Since September 2020, the group allegedly sent more than 150 000 of these fake court invoices to businesses and associations, resulting in several thousand companies paying the demanded sum. The total damage caused is estimated at EUR 2.5 million. Furthermore, an Estonian member of the group is also suspected of having committed tax fraud.
Eurojust assisted the investigations by organising a coordination meeting and setting up a joint investigation team. Additional investigative support from authorities in Lithuania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Malta and the Czech Republic allowed investigators to follow the money transfers and trace the suspects.
The following authorities took part in the investigation:
- Germany: Public Prosecutor’s Office Detmold, District Police Mettmann
- Estonia: Viru District Prosecutor’s Office; Tax and Customs Board, Investigation Department, East Division
- Latvia: International Cooperation Division of the Prosecutor General’s Office, State Police of Latvia: Central Criminal Police Department, International Cooperation Department and Cybercrime Enforcement Department