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Israel indicts French immigrants in fraud case targeting European businesses

Israel has indicted four French immigrants for fraud that targeted European businesses. The pioneer of the scam technique lives openly in Israel despite a French warrant out for his arrest.

The defendants charged on Wednesday had posed as representatives of companies in order to receive payments from European companies.

They ran "a worldwide network of fraud based in Israel" that tricked companies into paying them 9.1 million euros ($10.4 million), the justice ministry said.

The scam centered on using forged documents and fake email addresses to convince companies to transfer money to vendors whom they were impersonating.

"Alongside activity in the country, defendants held numerous bank accounts in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland," prosecutors said.

Prosecutors accuse the four men of pretending to be representatives of France's Chanel, Germany's Bosch, Italy's Diadora and Sweden's Electrolux.

Media Markt, Eldi, Cora, ICI Paris XL and Intergamma all lost money, according to the indictment. Other companies involved include Electrolux, Kia Motors, and Toyota. Not all companies were sucked into the trick.

In one fraud, the defendants are accused of pretended to be executives of Belgium electronics company Eldi and German electronics giant Bosch. They fooled an Eldi employee into transferring nearly 800,000 euro ($912,000) owed to Bosch to the defendants' bank account.

They also tricked German electronics retailer Media Markt into sending nearly one million euros to what the company thought was Swedish home appliance company Electrolux's bank account.

The defendants were named as Henri Omisi, Daniel Alon, Jeremy Laloum and Mordechai Lalouch. They were arrested in May in the seaside Israeli city of Netanya, home to a large French-Jewish immigrant population. Two Italians were also indicted in a separate case. Those indictments are related to the Italians' failed attempt to set up the scam in Italy.

The fraud is known as the "president's scam," so-named because the criminals pose as top executives to extract money.

The scam is believed to have been developed by Israeli-Frenchman Gilbert Chikli, who lives openly in Israel despite French warrants out for his arrest. Israeli authorities have never explained why Chikli is free to roam after skipping bail in France and fleeing.

He is not believed to be tied to the scam with the Frenchmen.

cw/kms (AFP, AP)

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