Lithuanian Financial Institution Facilitates Organized Crime Group in Laundering EUR 2 Billion

February 29, 2024

Authorities in Italy, Latvia, and Lithuania have collaboratively cracked down on a major money laundering network, centered on a Lithuanian financial institution. On February 27, 2024, around 250 judicial representatives and law enforcement officers were actively engaged during a collaborative enforcement operation. A royal of 18 individuals, including three primary suspects were taken into custody.

The authorities researched nearly 55 locations, resulting in the seizure of assets and bank accounts valued at over EUR 11.5 million. Eurojust and Europol have greatly played their part in facilitating and coordinating international efforts.

The findings revealed that the two primary suspects have laundered approximately EUR 2 billion in funds since 2017, using a global network of shell companies.  The suspects are now apprehended, reportedly provided criminal networks with online money laundering services.

In the same operation, the third major suspect, superheading another organized crime group (OCG) was also arrested for defrauding Italian Authorities with EUR 15 million in public funds. Interconnected with the Lithuanian financial institution, the funds were transferred through the same intricate network of diverse enterprises.

The ongoing operations against the OCG were driven by an extensive collaboration among the three countries. While attributing the successful execution of the operation to strong collaboration among the law enforcement authorities, Mr. Burkhard Mühl, The Head of Europol’s European Financial and Economic Crime Centre, reportedly stated,

“Europol firmly believes that the ‘follow the money’ approach, coupled with close cooperation between EU law enforcement agencies and Europol, constitutes the most powerful strategy for combatting transnational criminal threats and frauds related to public funds. By pooling resources, expertise, and intelligence, we can effectively disrupt illicit financial flows and dismantle criminal networks.”

Behind Closed Doors: Lithuanian Bank Faciliated Money Laundering

Through a chain of enterprises operated by intermediaries, Lithuanian financial institutions provided money laundering services for thousands of criminals across Europe by conducting fraudulent financial transactions. The institution is alleged to established by an Italian-based organized crime group (OCG) and advertised its consulting services in 2016.

Two main suspects, residing in Lithuania and Latvia, were in charge of the financial institution. Proceeds from various illegal activities including tax evasion, cyber fraud, fraudulent bankruptcy,  and organized crime like drug trafficking. Share of profits from these illegal activities were channeled into Latvia and Lithuania by making investments in real estate and luxury automobiles.

Nearly EUR 15 million was laundered by illegally obtained building bonuses, provided by the Italian national authorities for the renovation, and insulation work. In reality, no such buildings existed nor the applicants were the owners. The primary culprit behind this fraud was a tax consultant who arranged bonuses for 72 individuals, aware of the exploitation.

On the day of the operation, two Europol Experts were assigned to Latvia to assist local authorities with their investigation. Another Europol specialist was deployed to the coordination center at Eurojust, while an analyst was tasked to monitor the information exchange via secure channels.

The effective execution of joint operation emphasizes the significance of global cooperation and information sharing in addressing major criminal syndicates working across borders.  Through collaborative actions, nations can strengthen their approach to investigating, scrutinizing, and obstructing illegal activities, thereby enhancing international endeavors to preserve the community worldwide.

To get more understanding of Eurojust’s measures against illegal activities, please visit: Eurojust Seizes Assets in 20 Countries Following Coordinated Operation against Cryptocurrency Scam