One of the 15 arrests carried out in Palma. | Majorca Daily Bulletin reporter

In one of the largest operations in the fight against cybercrime in the European Union, the National Police have arrested 16 alleged cybercriminals, 15 of them in Palma, who had set up an organisation in Spain that carried out the online scam known as the “love scam”.

The suspects engaged in virtual romantic relationships with women, whom they convinced to hand over sums of money under various pretexts.
In total, according to a police statement, they swindled millions of euros out of around 20 people across Europe.

Operation Marine began after an investigation in Alicante, where a million-dollar scam was carried out under the same guise. The organisation led the victim to believe for years that she was involved in a cyber-relationship with a US soldier who managed to swindle her out of 835,000 euros.

To get the money, the fake marine used all sorts of pretexts and excuses to ask for money, such as payment of fees, certificates, plane tickets, security for his life or bribes.

The victim gave him all her savings, even going so far as to apply for personal loans to get more money to transfer to him, carrying out 75 bank transfers, mostly to Malaysia, Indonesia and Spain.

Out of desperation, the victim sent him a package via a courier company, containing a large amount of cash. The police tracked the victim’s money for months, concluding that they were dealing with a criminal organisation made up of cybercriminals specialised in online fraud throughout Europe.

The organisation had set up a criminal network made up of “mules” who received the money from the cyber scams in their bank accounts and then sent it out through a higher level of the organisation by means of bank transfers abroad, specifically to Malaysia and Indonesia.

So far, the National Police have located around twenty victims in Lithuania, Germany, Italy, Romania, Luxembourg, Finland, Poland, Slovakia, Croatia, as well as in Spain.

The operation began when the UDEF of the Provincial Judicial Police Brigade of Alicante, followed the trail of the money defrauded from the first of the victims, who reported in Alicante that she had been swindled through a “love scam”.

The investigators followed the money trail to Malaga, where they arrested one of the ringleaders of the organisation at the beginning of May.

At the beginning of October, the investigators concluded with the complete dismantling of the network, arresting the leader of the criminal organisation based in Mallorca and carrying out several house searches in different properties in the Balearics.