Payments stopped, three arrested in medical supplies fraud case

15 September 2020
INTERPOL supported investigation into Italian company targeted by business email compromise fraud

SINGAPORE – Three members of an international crime syndicate wanted for tricking an Italian company into making fraudulent payments for non-existent medical equipment were arrested in Indonesia, in a case supported by INTERPOL.

In May, an Italian company which was in discussions to purchase a large amount of medical supplies from a Chinese company, including ventilators and COVID-19 monitoring equipment, fell victim to a business email compromise (BEC) fraud.

Indonesian authorities arrested three fraud suspects and seized EUR 3.1 million in a case supported by INTERPOL.
Indonesian authorities arrested three fraud suspects and seized EUR 3.1 million in a case supported by INTERPOL.

The suspects infiltrated the email correspondence between the two companies and convinced the Italian buyers to make three bank transfers totaling EUR 3.67 million to an account they controlled in Indonesia. Believing they were paying the legitimate supplier, the company made the transfers.

The fraud was quickly discovered, and INTERPOL’s Financial Crimes unit was requested to assist with the case. INTERPOL swiftly facilitated communication between the Italian and Indonesian authorities via the INTERPOL National Central Bureaus (NCBs) in Rome and Jakarta, resulting in the timely interception and freezing of EUR 3.1 million of the fraudulent payments in early June.

Case coordination

To further support the investigation, in August INTERPOL held a virtual case coordination meeting where authorities from Italy (NCB Rome and the Postal Police Service) and Indonesia (NCB Jakarta, the Financial Intelligence Unit (PPATK) and the Criminal Investigation Department) shared critical investigative details and outlined the steps necessary for securing the frozen assets and locating the suspects behind the fraud.

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Following the meeting, Indonesian authorities identified the three suspects, who were part of a wider criminal network involved in the BEC fraud which targeted the Italian company. They were arrested in early September, when police also seized EUR 3.1 million and assets allegedly purchased using the stolen money.

“Thanks to the timely action of the Italian and Indonesian authorities using INTERPOL channels, this fraud was detected, the majority of the fraudulent payments stopped before reaching the criminals, and the individuals behind this scam will face justice,” said José de Gracia, INTERPOL’s Assistant Director of Criminal Networks.

Investigations continue into the activities of the criminal syndicate to determine if there have been other victims from other countries.