An investigation by the Gdańsk Bureau of the Polish Central Bureau of Investigation led to the arrest of one of the most prolific counterfeit euro distributors on any darkweb marketplace. According to one announcement from law enforcement, the alleged vendor had been producing and selling fake euro notes for several years. As with many of the recent counterfeit vendor busts of a similarly large scale, Europol coordinated much of the investigation and facilitated the cooperation between law enforcement agencies in at least two countries.
The Gdańsk Bureau of the Polish Central Bureau of Investigation (Centralne Biuro Śledcze, CBŚP), at an undisclosed date, received a notice from Europol indicating that a large-scale counterfeit operation was based somewhere in Poland. The press release from Europol and the similar announcements from law enforcement in Poland are painfully vague and non-specific in the summaries of the root of the Investigation and, for more obvious reasons, even more vague regarding a potentially massive number of future investigations. Something unknown to the public alerted Europol and Austrian authorities to the presence of a counterfeit manufacturer in Poland with connections throughout Europe.
After learning that a potential supplier of a massive number of high-quality counterfeit notes operated from within Poland, the Polish Central Bureau of Investigation in Gdansk “immediately” cooperated with international law enforcement. In this case, the internal law enforcement came from Austria. At the time this article was written, no Austrian law enforcement agency had issued an announcement detailing any role in an international counterfeit bust; with Europol and CBŚP’s vague references to Austrian law enforcement, we are not even aware of the branch of law enforcement involved in the operation. More importantly, the role the Austrian law enforcement agency played in the operation is completely unknown.
Austria has been at the center of many recent cases involving counterfeit euro manufacturers, vendors, resellers, and even regular users. One of the more prominent cases involved a counterfeit euro vendor who sold his notes through Alphabay, his own clearnet site, and several fraud forums. The vendor, known as “VIB” or “Very Important Bills” sold law quality bills in very large quantities. VIB, a 25-year-old living in Landstraße, Austria, landed in police custody in December 2017 after law enforcement caught one of his regular customers spending the fake notes at stores in Germany. After VIB’s arrest, members of a certain fraud forum expressed their concern that VIB would give the police all the information he had on his customers. He had thousands of them, according to police records released in court.
After learning that VIB received a sentence of less than three years in prison, some of his former customers suspected that he had helped the police identify his customers in exchange of a light prison sentence. Several former customers reported that they knew someone who had received a visit from the police concerning VIB counterfeits after the VIB arrest. Austrian and German law enforcement agents have been cracking down on the use of counterfeit euro notes and have finally reached a point where store clerks and bank employees can recognize them by looking at them, and not with the assistance of a counterfeit pen. Law enforcement in Germany and in Austria have reported that counterfeit note usage is down. And certainly down when compared to the explosive effect the infamous Napoli Group had on the counterfeit market.
While we are unaware of the details of Austrian law enforcement’s involvement, we know that Polish law enforcement “immediately” reached out and collaborated with the Austrian authorities. Europol helped coordinate the investigation. Jointly, the law enforcement agencies circled in on the location of the vendor. They had intercepted three packages filled with counterfeit notes that helped pinpoint the specific house the alleged counterfeit maker had been using as a workshop.
The suspect lived in the city of Gdynia. Polish police caught the man as he was preparing to drop off dozens of packages of counterfeit notes addressed to customers spread throughout Europe. The police found thousands of fake notes at his home and ample evidence that he had been producing and selling counterfeits. Europol reported that he had distributed at least 10,000 notes over the course of several years. His darkweb vendor account had “a strong reputation.” If convicted of producing counterfeit notes, the defendant will leave a minimum sentence of five years in prison.