The group, made up mainly of Romanian nationals, had created a system to clone cards issued by “banks in Britain, the Cayman Islands, China, France, Japan, Panama, Peru, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and the United States,” said an Italian police statement.
This was done through so-called “skimming” – using highly advanced devices placed on ATMs, which can read data from users' magnetic strips and steal PIN codes.
The gang then used the proceeds to pay collaborating traders in a large number of fraudulent transactions in Milan and Monza in northern Italy, continental police agency Europol said in a separate statement.
A Monza court has issued arrest warrants for 12 Romanian citizens suspected of involvement in the gang, Italian police added. Europol said in total 14 suspects were arrested, of whom seven were in Italy and Romania.
“Estimated losses incurred by the criminals' activities amount to several hundreds of thousands of euros,” Europol added.
Italian police said the gang's ringleader “has strong roots within organized crime in his country of origin,” and was often referred to as “the godfather”.
The group also set up a prostitution network bringing young Romanian women into Italy.
Seven have been identified and they reportedly earned “an average of 700 euros a day for the criminal group,” the Italian police said.