European police seize Lamborghinis and Rolexes over alleged US$650M COVID-19 fraud

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Police have arrested 22 people and seized assets worth more than €600 million (US$650 million) in connection with alleged fraud linked to the European Union’s post-pandemic recovery fund.

After an investigation by the EU prosecutor, eight people were detained, 14 were placed under house arrest and two others were barred from practicing their profession. The arrests took place in Italy, Austria, Romania and Slovakia.

The Italian financial police on Thursday said it had seized Lamborghinis, Porsches, Rolexes, Cartier jewelry, cryptocurrencies, luxury villas and other items during dozens of raids on homes and offices.

The alleged fraud is likely to renew concerns about the misuse of the EU’s €800-billion recovery fund to help revive the bloc’s economy. Italy was the largest beneficiary of the fund, with grants of more than €194 billion.

The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) said a criminal organization is suspected of running a fraud scheme between 2021 and 2023 to swindle Italy’s recovery packages.

In 2021, the group applied to receive non-repayable grants, the EPPO said, ostensibly to support small- and medium-sized companies, but later cooked up false balance sheets “to show that the companies were active and profitable, whereas in fact they were non-active, fictitious companies.”

After getting hold of some €600 million in funds from the Italian National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP), the group then transferred the funds to their bank accounts in Austria, Romania and Slovakia, the EPPO said.

The prosecutor’s office claimed the group used cryptocurrencies, artificial intelligence and offshore cloud servers to carry out and conceal the fraud.

The United States has also attempted to crack down on alleged fraud involving Covid-19 relief resources. A federal watchdog warned in June that the Small Business Administration distributed more than US$200 billion in potentially fraudulent post-pandemic funds.

This article was originally sourced from