An international organised crime gang that stole and trafficked luxury cars across Europe and North Africa – including Portugal – has been dismantled by police in Italy, Spain and Belgium.
Eurojust – the EU body that coordinates European investigations – has announced in a statement that 28 arrests have been made after 29 locations in Italy and Spain were searched.
The gang’s “key players” were identified as Italian and Moroccan, though there was a “network of associates in other EU member states”.
Authorities seized 40 cars worth around €3 million, reports the BBC.
Computers, fake IDs and €25,000 of counterfeit money were also recovered.
Eurojust adds that investigations into the gang began in Italy in 2015 after victims reported multiple car thefts, which were later linked to similar incidents in other European countries.
The car robbers would apparently obtain data about the car’s owner through the Italian Public Vehicles Registry.
Counterfeit documents were then created in Spain to match the owners, and then brought to the original car dealership so that a copy of the car keys could be obtained, says Eurojust.
After the car was stolen, forged licence plates and insurance cards were created to evade police before selling the cars abroad.
The operation was coordinated by EU law enforcement agency Europol and Eurojust.
Eurojust spokesperson Teresa Angela Camelio said: “The action clearly demonstrates that the most sophisticated international criminal schemes can be dismantled thanks to excellent judicial and police cooperation at EU level.”