Portuguese authorities tore down Europe’s second largest counterfeit currency networks, arresting five individuals Monday on charges of counterfeiting and criminal association.
The Judicial Police affirmed that in two years the network produced more than 26,000 fake banknotes and later, using dark websites, sold them in exchange for virtual currency, Bitcoin and other cryptos.
The money ring produced fake notes worth more than €1.3 million (US$1.43 million) which circulated in France, Germany and Spain as well as Portugal.
‘’Counterfeit notes were advertised in one of dark-net’s main markets, and orders were received either through private messaging on that market or through encrypted chat platforms,’’ the police said, adding that after payment ‘’the notes were sent by post from Portugal.”
The dark net overlays the internet and can only be accessed through specialized software, configurations and authorizations. It often uses non-standard communication protocols so that it cannot be gotten to through the internet.
In a so-called ‘’Deep Money Operation’’, Portuguese authorities, supported by EUROPOL, carried out eight domestic and non-domestic searches in southern European countries and seized 1,833 fake cash notes worth €69,930 ($77,216) plus computers, printers, and security paper incorporating security filament, holograms, etc.
Portugal also extradited and detained the alleged leader, a Portuguese who has lived in Colombia since mid-2018.
EUROPOL and the European Central Bank cooperated with EU member states and state law enforcement authorities in this investigation.
Globally, cybercrime is the fastest growing crime. Criminals know that it’s more profitable than “physical crime” and that the probability of being caught is lower partly because cryptocurrencies, internet-based mediums of exchange, are hard to track.