Police arrest 22 people in EU raids linked to alleged theft of $650m worth of Italy pandemic funds | Trending Viral hub

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BRUSSELS — police in Italy, AustriaRomania and Slovakia arrested 22 people on Thursday as part of an investigation into the alleged diversion of hundreds of millions of euros in post-pandemic aid funds from the European Union.

The 600 million euros ($650 million) was part of Italy’s post-pandemic money, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office said.

The European Public Prosecutor’s Office suspects that a criminal organization has diverted non-refundable funds from the Italian National Recovery and Resilience Plan between 2021 and 2023.

The Italian program is funded by the EU Recovery and Resilience Fund, a multibillion-dollar scheme that was devised to help EU countries breathe new life into their virus-ravaged economies.

According to EU figures, Italy’s national recovery and resilience plan is the largest in the bloc, worth €194.4 billion ($211 billion) in grants and loans and representing 10.8% of gross domestic product. of the country in 2019.

The European Public Prosecutor’s Office said financial police in Venice, Italy, executed a freezing order issued by the investigating judge on assets worth more than 600 million euros. Venice financial police said luxury apartments and villas, significant amounts of cryptocurrency, Rolex watches, Cartier jewelry, gold and luxury cars were also seized.

“With the support of the law enforcement agencies of the other Member States involved, 22 people have been arrested in Italy, Austria, Romania and Slovakia,” the European Public Prosecutor’s Office said.

“Eight suspects have been remanded in custody, while (another) 14 suspects are under house arrest and an accountant has been banned from practicing his profession. The premises of the suspects and the companies under investigation have also been subject to searches and seizure of evidence.”

The European Public Prosecutor’s Office said the criminal organization allegedly used false corporate balance sheets when they applied for non-refundable grants to support fictitious small and medium-sized companies expanding into foreign markets.

The criminals are suspected of colluding with a network of “accountants, service providers and notaries public” to obtain the money they transferred to bank accounts in Austria, Romania and Slovakia. The European Public Prosecutor’s Office said the suspects used advanced technologies, such as VPNs, cloud servers located abroad, crypto assets and artificial intelligence software.

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