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Organiser of criminal group running ‘scammer’ call centres arrested in Georgia

9 November 2022
Prosecutor's office briefing, 9 November 2022. Screengrab: Prosecutor's Office Facebook

The Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia has announced that they have arrested ‘one of the organisers of a criminal group’ behind an international call centre scheme, as part of a joint investigation with the German authorities.

At a briefing on Wednesday, Bakur Abuladze, Georgia’s deputy prosecutor general, announced that the investigative actions had been prepared for several months with international partners.

According to the Prosecutor’s Office, five scam call centres, and the flats, cars, and workplaces of dozens of individuals were searched.

‘Hundreds of electronic carriers of information, documents, and a large amount of money were seized. At the same time, assets allegedly obtained through criminal means and funds deposited in bank accounts were seized’, Abuladze said.

Around 300 Georgian and 60 German law enforcement officers participated in the investigation, which established that Georgians and citizens of other countries came together to form a transnational organised crime ring. 

According to the investigation, the alleged criminals founded companies in different countries, including Georgia, and opened call centres where employees were engaged in defrauding people. 

The Prosecutor’s Office stated that the fraudulent schemes had obtained ‘millions of euros’ from citizens of several countries in the European Union, and subsequently laundered this money.

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The statement also said that members of the scheme ‘created electronic trading platforms that ensured that fraudulently obtained funds from customers were placed into the bank accounts of fictitious enterprises’.

The first version of the prosecutor’s office statement mentioned that the investigative team had conducted investigative actions simultaneously in the territories of Georgia, Albania, and North Macedonia, with around 250 people from Georgia involved in the operation.

However, the statement on the website was later changed, removing the names of the countries involved, and adding a claim that the investigation had taken place across four countries. 

The General Prosecutor’s office told OC Media that the changes had been made due to ‘an error that was overlooked’, and refused to provide any further information on why the information had been removed and amended. 

Scam call centre crime in Georgia

Germany and Georgia previously cooperated on a similar investigation in October 2021. 

Following that investigation, law enforcement officers revealed that the venture under investigation at the time had been started in 2015 by citizens of Georgia and Israel. The alleged fraud ring reportedly established six companies in Georgia. Employing foreign language experts as ‘operators’, they targeted people living all over Europe.

[Read on OC Media: Georgian and German authorities raid ‘scam’ call centre]

Last year, the authorities said the schemes had fraudulently misappropriated €9.5 million, $720,000, and £220,000 in illegal income.

Using fake phone numbers and fictitious names, call centre employees offered the people they called ‘securities, stocks, commodity assets, currencies, and cryptocurrencies’.

On Wednesday, the prosecutor’s office announced that in connection with last year's case, ‘criminal prosecution […] has been initiated against the 36 individuals and two legal entities involved in the activity of so-called call centres’.

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