An international police operation across the UK and Spain, other parts of Europe and the United States has targeted suspected masterminds of boiler room operations which are believed to be responsible for millions of pounds of investment fraud.
A ground-breaking partnership between UK and Spanish law enforcement agencies has led to a total of 110 arrests after 35 warrants were executed at private addresses and in buildings where boiler room operations were allegedly being conducted.
High value goods including an Aston Martin, Ferrari, Mercedes, BMW, Mustang, designer clothes, watches and cash in various denominations with a value in excess of £500,000 were also seized.
Two year investigation
The City of London Police, as the national policing lead for economic crime, and Policía Nacional co-ordinated strikes in Spain, England, the United States and Serbia, marking a significant step forward in a two-year investigation into men suspected of being at the peak of an extensive network of organised crime.
The operation also represented a milestone for the new National Crime Agency, which has assisted in the planning of the activity, along with the Financial Conduct Authority, Serious Fraud Office and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Secret Service.
Devastating financial losses
In 2012 the City of London Police and the Policía Nacional began forensically examining reports of investors worldwide being sold bogus shares in carbon credits, gold, renewable energy, forestry, eco projects, wine and land. Many investors had suffered devastating financial losses and emotional distress.
Since then a number of arrests have been made across the UK, with several cases being brought to court. The investigation then started to target the people believed to be at the very top of an organised crime gang, whose influence detectives believe can be found in the day-to-day running of boiler rooms located across Europe.
Law enforcement can work globally
City of London Police Commander, and National Economic Crime Co-ordinator, Steve Head, said: “The arrests made across four countries highlight how law enforcement can work globally in the pursuit of suspected criminals who seek shelter in foreign lands so they can target innocent people with investment scams that wreak financial and emotional destruction.”
In recent years, City of London Police investigations have led to numerous prosecutions where organised crime gangs have been found to be running boiler rooms, mainly located in Spain, with teams of young men cold-calling investors offering them worthless, overpriced or even non-existent shares. They promise high returns but those who invest, often the elderly and vulnerable, usually end up losing their money.
Joan Mayer, 78, from Hampshire lost a six figure sum. She had wanted to invest to help create a secure financial future for her daughter. She said: “Discovering the fraud was shattering. I was left feeling isolated and it is difficult to explain how humiliated I feel. My lifelong trust in people has been severely damaged.”
Scammed of entire life savings
Another victim, a 72 year old man from the Midlands, who did not want to be identified, said: “When my wife and I first found out that we had been scammed out of our entire life savings, the shock and despair we both felt was unbelievable. I felt totally devastated and could not believe that money I had saved my whole life for had been taken from me. In those early weeks we hardly slept or ate. It is still very raw to us both and we both have bad days when it is all we can think about.”
Of the 110 arrests, there were 84 in Spain, 20 in the UK, two in the United States and four in Serbia with the majority of people arrested on suspicion of money laundering and fraud offences.The operation also led to the closure of what are believed to be 14 boiler rooms in Spain, two in the UK and one in Serbia.
Anyone who believes they have fallen victim to an investment scam should contact us.