Spain arrests 24 after counterfeit fuel, credit and debit cards investigation

Spain arrests 24 after counterfeit fuel, credit and debit cards investigation
© Les Haines

Spanish police have arrested 24 suspects in a three-month operation following an investigation into counterfeit fuel, credit and debit cards.

The investigation uncovered an organised crime group specialising in selling counterfeit fuel, credit and debit cards to truck drivers and freight and logistics companies, which could then be used to cross toll barriers without having to pay associated fees.

Following a three-month operation supported by Europol, police found that in that period around 30,000 fraudulent transactions were made in Spain and France. More than 600 of the vehicles involved in these transactions were based in Spain, according to licence plate registration information uncovered during the investigation.

How did the investigation proceed?

Europol co-ordinated meetings between Spanish and French police, alongside the Fuel Industry Card Fraud Intelligence Bureau, in Barcelona and Madrid, Spain, and in Paris, France. Further, the organisation deployed a mobile office to provide on-the-spot analytical and operational support on the day that the gang members were arrested.

The operation took place on 6 May, and saw Spanish authorities – with support from Europol – search 21 houses in the Catalonia region of the country.

What were the results of the operation?

In their search, police found 15,000 counterfeit blank cards, as well as card readers and devices. They also discovered €19,770 in cash and four luxury cars, which were seized. Police estimate that damages from the scheme amount to more than €500,000.

In total, 11 counterfeit fuel, credit and debit cards factories were closed as a result of the police operation, and 24 suspects were taken into custody.

Because of ongoing concerns about the security of smart cards, including duplication and fraud, Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre regularly hosts international meetings with law enforcement agencies and the Fuel Industry Card Fraud Investigation Bureau to ensure that all authorities are able to discuss concerns around toll and fuel card fraud, and to ensure a co-ordinated response.

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