Paris banks fall victim to 'anti-terrorist' sting

6th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 5 (AFP) - A gang that tricked Paris banks out of millions of euros by pretending to hunt down money-laundering by terrorists perpetrated what French investigators on Wednesday called a "perfectly incredible and surrealist" sting.

PARIS, Oct 5 (AFP) - A gang that tricked Paris banks out of millions of euros by pretending to hunt down money-laundering by terrorists perpetrated what French investigators on Wednesday called a "perfectly incredible and surrealist" sting.

French police on Monday arrested two members of the gang and were hunting for the other three, including the alleged mastermind, Gilbert C., who they said had fled to Israel.

The scammers carried out their operation by having one of their number present himself to the banks as an international bank director helping Western anti-terrorist officials track down suspicious money transfers.

He backed up his story by giving details on some of the banks' richest clients and supplying information about certain transfers.

He then told the banks they would receive a visit from an agent from France's DGSE counter-espionage service who would ask them to secretly collaborate so the 'money-laundering rings' could be infiltrated.

Some 20 banks were approached, according to investigators, and several complied.

In July, one unidentified establishment provided EUR 350,000 in cash to a woman gang member posing as the DGSE operative.

In September, they changed tactics slightly, convincing some banks to redirect funds they said were being used to finance terrorist groups to different accounts.

One bank sent US $2.5 million to a Geneva account, another two million euros was sent to a Hong Kong account and five million euros was sent to an account in Estonia.

An alert raised by one of the warier banks allowed police to block the first two of the September transfers, but the third was allegedly pocketed by Gilbert C. before the noose closed.

Police found the gang had set up a myriad of screen companies controlled from abroad.

The suspected mastermind was "impossible to catch" and "worthy of the best" of the world's scam artists, one investigator said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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