LONDON: Anti-fraud police have arrested 110 people in Europe and the United States in an international crackdown on gangs selling bogus shares that cost some investors their life savings, British authorities said on Friday.

City of London Police, responsible for law enforcement in the British capital’s financial district, said the arrests, made in a series of raids this week, arose out of a two-year investigation into ‘boiler room’ operations believed responsible for millions of pounds of investment fraud.

Boiler rooms consist of teams of young men cold-calling potential investors offering them worthless, overpriced or even non-existent shares using high-pressure sales techniques.

Codenamed Operation Rico, the investigation led to 84arrests in Spain, 20 in Britain, four in Serbia and two in the United States, with most of those arrested on suspicion of money laundering and fraud, City of London police said.

It prompted the closure of what are believed to be 14 boiler rooms in Spain, two in Britain and one in Serbiawith goods worth over 500,000 pounds ($836,500) seized including an Aston Martin, Mustang, designer clothes, watches and cash.

City of London Police commander Steve Head said the network was believed to have had upwards of 1,000 victims, and the arrests highlighted how law enforcement can work globally to find suspected criminals seeking shelter in other countries.

‘It is our most important investigation ever, targeting people we believe are at the top of an organised crime network that has been facilitating boiler rooms across Europe and which is suspected of being responsible for millions of pounds of investment fraud, he said in a statement.

Head said City of London Police investigations have produced numerous prosecutions in recent years where organised crime gangs have been found to be running boiler rooms, mainly located in Spain.

These schemes promise high returns and may initially offer dividends but those who invest, often the elderly and vulnerable, usually end up losing their money, and some have seen their life savings evaporate.-Reuters

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