Europol cracks Italian fake money gang

Europol has cracked an "infamous organized crime group" in Italy which traded fake money around the world, the EU's law enforcement agency has said.

Europol cracks Italian fake money gang
Gang members are accused of “distributing counterfeit money on a worldwide scale”. Money photo

European crime-fighters worked alongside the Italian police to dismantle the Naples-based gang, Europol said on Wednesday.

A total of 53 arrests were made in Turin and Genoa in north-west Italy, the Sicilian capital Palermo, and Avellino, Caserta and Naples in the Campania region.

Gang members are accused of “distributing counterfeit money on a worldwide scale” and producing the fake bank notes.

“The criminal group gained complete control of the international counterfeit euro market,” Europol said, using a “dense network” to distribute the cash globally.

They used code words to talk about the money, including “shoes”, and “gnocchi”, Europol spokesman Søren Pedersen told The Local.

Italian media said the group also produced a €300 bank note – which does not exist in legal tender – although Pedersen doubted such claims.

"Why would they? It adds an unnecessary risk. A €300 note would be much more suspicious, I can't see why they would make such a note," he said, explaining that the group focused on producing €20, €50 and €100 counterfeit notes.

Pedersen said Europol could not confirm whether the gang had links to Naples' Camorra mafia. "If you work in Naples as a criminal you have to have to very good connections," he said.

Europol named six European countries – Albania, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania and Spain – as among those worst affected by the gang's counterfeit money.

Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia also became victims of the Italian gang, while Senegal was named as another targeted country.

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Italian police foil plot to steal Ferrari’s body for ransom

Italian police said they caught a criminal gang on Tuesday that had been plotting to steal the body of Formula One racing pioneer Enzo Ferrari for ransom.

Italian police foil plot to steal Ferrari's body for ransom
A boy looks at a 125C sports car from 1947 in front of an Enzo Ferrari's portrait in Maranello's Ferrari Gallery. Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP

Detectives in Sardinia said they had stumbled across the plot while investigating a group of 30 or so crooks who were involved in drug and arms trafficking on the Italian island but were exploring other cash-making ideas.

One was a plan to steal the mortal remains of the racing driver – who founded the Ferrari Grand Prix motor racing team and prancing horse brand before dying – and demand money from his family for the body's safe return.

They had plotted in detail how to steal the coffin, hide it, and contact the family, police said.

Ferrari, who died aged 90 in 1988, is buried in a cemetery in Modena behind a plate of marble in a large chapel secured by a heavy iron gate.

Some 300 officers armed with over 30 arrest warrants clapped the gang members in cuffs early Tuesday morning, police said.

Italy is no stranger to body-abduction cases. Among the most famous was the theft in 1992 of the body of four-year-old Raffaele Bagni – the son of a former football player — a month after his death in a car accident.

It was Italian cases that inspired the theft in 1978 of Charlie Chaplin's coffin in Switzerland by a Polish and Bulgarian grave robber.