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Europol Takes Down 9 Linked to Medical Marijuana Ponzi Scheme

Europol actively apprehended nine suspects believed to be central to a cannabis investment Ponzi scheme that targeted over 186,000 victims. On April 11, a large-scale enforcement operation involving 400 law enforcement officers from 11 countries carried out 38 house searches. This well-coordinated effort led to the seizure or freezing of EUR 4.7 million in bank accounts, alongside over EUR 1.5 million in cryptocurrencies, EUR 106,000 in cash, and EUR 2.6 million in real estate assets.

Authorities also confiscated luxury vehicles, art pieces, cash reserves, and various high-end items during the raid. Additionally, a significant number of electronic devices and essential documents were recovered.

The fraudulent scheme centered around a cannabis cultivation crowdsourcing platform promoted on social networks between early 2020 and July 2022. While an estimated 550,000 individuals might have been affected globally, about 186,000 individuals actually invested funds or cryptocurrencies. Investors were lured into the scheme with the promise of a minimum entry-level investment of EUR 50 for access to the ‘e-growing’ venture, supposedly connecting them with medical cannabis producers. The platform assured investors, or e-growers, of profits from selling cannabis to authorized buyers after purchasing a cannabis plant.

Despite claims of annual returns exceeding 100%, the mechanism behind these promises remained undisclosed.

The suspects primarily consist of individuals of Russian nationality, with involvement from citizens of Dutch, German, Italian, Latvian, Maltese, Polish, Jordanian, American, and Venezuelan descent. This diverse composition illustrates the wide-reaching and international nature of the illegal operation.

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