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NEWS: Multi-million euro gold laundering racket uncovered by Germany’s FIU

SEIZED: Twelve Gold bars which were seized in a customs inspection at Prüm, Germany. PHOTO: ZFA Frankfurt am Main

By AML Intelligence Correspondent

A MAJOR investigation in Germany is looking into a money laundering scheme involving several million euros in gold transactions – following red flags raised by the FIU.

The probe centres on gold of unknown origin “in the value of a mid double-digit million amount” purchased in Germany, carried to Turkikye and then re-imported back as gold jewellery.

Officers believe the 43-year-old suspect handled its import and export businesses via economically inactive bogus companies to conceal the origin of the precious metal and money flows.

“Due to the unclear origin of the gold and the funds used, it cannot be ruled out that these come from potentially incriminated advances,” says Carina Orth from the Customs Investigation Office Frankfurt am Main.

The investigation is being led by the Joint Financial Investigation Group (GFG) of the Customs Office Frankfurt am Main (Der Zoll ) and the State Criminal Police Office of Rhineland-Palatinate.

In October 2023, around €522,000, a weapon and 19 kilograms of gold were seized at a customs control in Prüm, officers said. Officers displayed the gold that was seized (see photo).

The breakthrough came as a result of suspicious transactions analysed by specialists at Germany’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) based in Cologne and Dresden.

“In particular, the anomalies identified pointed to a possible connection to money laundering activities. The results of the operational analysis were therefore compiled in detail in an analysis report and sent to the competent law enforcement authority,” investigators said.
The FIU led by Daniel Theleskalf said: “We congratulate our partner authorities on their investigative success and look forward to further cooperation in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing.”

Investigators said extensive business documents, computer data and a video system were seized during searches of five residential and commercial premises in Düsseldorf, garbage shelter in Markgräflerland and in Luxembourg by customs and police on Thursday last (March 21).

Officers said they were investigating a 43-year-old accused and his alleged accomplice since the end of 2023 on suspicion of commercial money laundering in connection with gold transactions.

“The investigation under the management of the Saarbrücken public prosecutor was based on various indications, flagged by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) – the central office of the federal government located at the customs to investigate suspicious financial transactions – and analysed comprehensively and with high priority. Subsequently, the analysis results from the FIU were transmitted to the Saarland State Police Department,” investigators said in a statement.

Joint financial investigation groups exist between customs, state criminal offices and the Saarland State Police Headquarters, as well as between the Customs Criminal Police Office and the Federal Criminal Police Office. They are established specifically to combat money laundering and hiding assets.

As a partner in combating international, organised money laundering, the Customs search office based in Frankfurt am Main has three joint financial investigation groups in Saarland, Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse which work with outside police agencies. Another office is located at Frankfurt am Main Airport.

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