Financial Criminals See Opportunities as Europe Reels from Virus
06 Apr 2020

Criminals are increasingly trying to profit from the turmoil unleashed by the coronavirus pandemic, posing a new challenge to bankers who are expected to continue guarding against illicit financial flows.

Austria’s financial regulator on Thursday became the latest authority to warn of a jump in criminal activity as the drastic changes in working conditions and chaotic markets make it more difficult to maintain controls.

“Fraudulent activities on financial markets in connection with the corona pandemic are increasing strongly,” Austria’s Financial Market Authority said in a statement. “Often, these are known types of scams that now appear in new packaging due to the particular challenges of the Covid-19 crisis.”

In one scam known as “CEO fraud,” the criminals try to get executives to transfer money, hoping that security checks don’t kick in amid the unusual working arrangements. Others are using the stock market slump to make fraudulent offers for haven investments including gold, wine and whiskey, according to French regulator Autorite des Marches Financiers.

European banks have been under pressure to improve their money-laundering controls after cases involving billions of euros in illegal money flows came to light last year. Prior to the virus crisis, regulators and government leaders were pushing to improve Europe-wide policing of dirty money, and several lenders were forced to spend millions of euros to improve their own controls.

By Alexander Weber, Bloomberg, 3 April 2020

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