After Austrian law enforcement authorities dismantled a gang selling high-quality counterfeit euros on the dark web, a man from Saint-Paul, Réunion was arrested for buying multiple fake euro bills from the criminal gang. The defendant is also suspected of selling some of the notes to local customers for a profit.
Réunion is an island and region of France located in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar and southwest of Mauritius. The island has a population of nearly 850,000 people and is an overseas department of France.
It is an unusual case, where multiple law enforcement authorities were involved, including the Austrian police, local law enforcement in Réunion, and the Central Office For Combatting Counterfeiting, which is located in Paris, France. The investigation started when Austrian authorities contacted their colleagues in Paris, saying that they had busted a criminal group in Austria, which had an impressive traffic of counterfeit currency flowing from the country to abroad. Austrian law enforcement authorities reported that the criminals pressed large amounts of counterfeit 20, 50, 100 euro bills and sold them over the dark web. According to police information, the fake notes were imitated extremely well using UV fibers similar to those of authentic banknotes.
It is rare that a darknet vendor (or vendor group) is selling high-quality counterfeit euro bills. In most of the criminal cases, the customers get arrested when they try to put the fake notes into circulation. In such instances, the reason for the discovery often originates from the quality of the bills. In May, two German students were sentenced to community service for purchasing fake euro notes from the dark web. In that case, one of the defendants reported that the quality of the euro bills was so bad that they could only use them “in the dark”.
To give an idea of the extent of the criminal operation, the Austrian police provided details on the number of bills the group distributed. The report shows that over 70,000 fake bills were distributed throughout Europe, including 31,000 pieces arriving in France.
According to the police, the customers of the counterfeiter group could obtain the euro notes by buying them from the dark web. Austrian police managed to identify some of the customers of the vendor group, among them was the 31-year-old resident of Saint-Paul.
The man, who is already known to the justice, was arrested in the morning on May 30 at his residence by the police of the SIAT (Interdepartmental Service of Technical Assistance). When law enforcement authorities searched the home of the suspect, they found one counterfeit 100 euro note and two 20 euro bills. Police reported that the notes were so well imitated that they had to call the services of the IEDOM (Institute of Overseas Departments) and a specialized European office to confirm their fraudulent origin, checking the serial numbers.
The 31-year-old, who also confessed that he was selling multiple fake notes of 50 euros in the recent months, was released from custody with a summoning to the criminal court for the possession of counterfeit money.