Maltese Financial Institution Probed for Laundering Millions for Russian Criminals

News / Maltese Bank Investigated for Laundering Russian Funds

In a sweeping operation that spanned across Europe, national authorities from France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, and Malta, with the support of Europol and Eurojust, have launched a major offensive against a Russian-Eurasian criminal network and a Maltese-based financial institution implicated in extensive money laundering activities. The operation, which saw over 100 searches conducted, marks a significant step in the fight against organized crime and financial fraud on the continent.

Operation Highlights

The crackdown led to the detention of four suspects during the action day, with potential suspects and witnesses also being interviewed in Estonia, Germany, Latvia, and Malta. The operation was a result of meticulous planning and coordination among various national and European law enforcement and judicial agencies, highlighting the growing concern over the sophisticated methods employed by criminal networks to launder money across borders.

Over 460 police officers were deployed to carry out the searches, with Germany contributing an additional four officers to support the investigations in Latvia and Malta. The operation also saw the seizure of various bank accounts and properties, underscoring the financial magnitude of the criminal activities involved.

The Heart of the Matter

At the core of the operation was a Maltese financial institution, which, since the end of 2015, has laundered at least EUR 4.5 million in proceeds from criminal activities. However, authorities suspect that the total sum of laundered money could amount to tens of millions of euros. The institution, along with the organized crime group (OCG) behind it, provided money-laundering services through a network of sham enterprises and individuals who were registered as directors without conducting any real business activities.

The OCG primarily operated out of Riga and Berlin. The Latvian authorities initiated investigations in 2021 after detecting unusual money transfers from Latvia to the Maltese financial institution. Concurrently, the German authorities began probing into suspicious money flows involving the same institution, indicating the transnational nature of the criminal activities.

Authorities Involved

The operation involved a wide array of authorities, showcasing the collaborative effort required to tackle such a complex issue:

  • Estonia: Office of the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Estonia, Estonian Police and Border Guard Board
  • France: Public Prosecutor’s Office and Investigative Judge – Judicial Court of Nice; National Police (DIPN) Alpes-Maritimes Division
  • Germany: Public Prosecutor’s Office Berlin, State Office of Criminal Investigations Berlin
  • Italy: Public Prosecutor’s Office Rome, Guardia di Finanza, Financial Police Unit Rome
  • Latvia: Rīga Northern Prosecution Office, Rīga Judicial Region Prosecution Office, Economic Crime Enforcement Department of the Central Criminal Police Department of the State Police
  • Malta: Malta Police Financial Crimes Investigations Department, Asset Recovery Bureau

The crackdown on this Russian-Eurasian criminal network and the Maltese financial institution is a testament to the effectiveness of cross-border collaboration. By pooling resources and expertise, European authorities have sent a strong message to criminal organizations involved in money laundering and other financial crimes. The operation not only disrupts the activities of this particular network but also serves as a deterrent to others engaged in similar illicit endeavors.

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