An organised crime network involved in euro counterfeiting has been dismantled by law enforcement authorities from Italy, Belgium and France, with the support of Europol.
Europol says authorities arrested 44 suspects and froze criminal assets worth €8 million in Italy.
Asset recovery measures taken so far during the overall operation in Italy include the confiscation of 50 apartments, 8 business premises, 2 farms, 10 companies operating in various sectors, 12 vehicles, 1 luxurious boat and 22 bank accounts, all with an estimated total value of approximately €8 million.
According to Europol, the inquiries started in October 2017, with the seizure of €50 banknotes in the province of the Italian city Benevento.
Through forensic examination of the banknotes it was confirmed that the counterfeits were produced using sophisticated printing methods.
This requires a good quality of raw materials and machinery and a very high-level of technical expertise.
All the main security features of genuine euro banknotes were imitated by the counterfeiters.
It is believed that the criminal network has produced and distributed more than three million counterfeit banknotes for a total face value of over €233 million over the years.
This amount represents one quarter of all counterfeit euro banknotes detected in circulation since the euro was introduced.
The mastermind behind the criminal organisation had not only established the whole network in charge of the production of counterfeit euros and other currencies, but also organised their dissemination on the European market.
He has also been involved in currency counterfeiting for more than 20 years.
Links to the Italian criminal network, the Camorra, have been uncovered during the investigation.
Europol says it is possibly the “largest ever bust of banknote counterfeiters in the history of the euro.”