Police have arrested more than 100 members of a criminal gang accused of laundering €12 million through 50 different US banks.

Europol announced yesterday that it has dismantled the criminal group after a joint operation with the Spanish National Police and the United States Secret Service. A total of 105 people have been arrested, 87 accounts seized, and $406,000 Euros seized in cash.

A Europol spokesperson said: “The criminal organisation, mainly formed of Greek nationals, set up shell companies in the United States and opened bank accounts for these companies.

“To gain the trust of the financial institutions, members of the criminal network made transfers to the US-based accounts from different locations in the EU. Based on this trust, the American-based banks issued debit and credit cards for these accounts. Retailers in on the scam, most of whom were in Spain, used the payment cards to finance the available credited amounts on the cards.

“To launder the stolen funds, they transferred them to different bank accounts, owned by members of the criminal network located in several EU countries. More than 50 American financial institutions became victims of these fraudulent activities losing over €12 million.”

The news was made public weeks after US Congress passed legislation to require companies to register their beneficial owners. This is aimed at improving corporate transparency and tackling money laundering through the use of anonymous shell companies.

The operation also involved police services from Austria, Denmark and Greece as well as the US Department of Justice and the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).