In the nationwide raid against the Al-Zein clan, the state has struck a blow against organized crime. FOCUS online explains the machinations with which the clan ripped off citizens and the state.
The offers on the online car platforms sounded tempting. An Audi Q7 was offered, a Porsche Panamera, a Mercedes S 350 D or even an Audi A1. Everything at reasonable prices. Soon there were prospective buyers who, according to FOCUS online information, usually paid between 30,000 and 45,000 euros for the luxury cars. The buyers came from Germany, France, Belgium and Africa. Business flourished. None of the customers suspected that it was a scam.
A gang of 17 car-smugglers, headed by two puppeteers from the Al Zein clan from Solingen, had embezzled high-quality leased vehicles. The Kurdish-Lebanese family syndicate with its estimated 3,000 members nationwide is considered one of the leading clans in organized crime. Some of the crooks rented the luxury models through shell companies, provided them with new license plates, forged the papers and peddled the cars over the Internet.
The fraud model worked for a long time because the gang initially continued to service the rental payments, so that the leasing companies did not become suspicious. Then suddenly the monthly payments stopped. Only then did the duped companies turn on the police and the judiciary.
After intensive investigations, the State Criminal Police Office of North Rhine-Westphalia and the central and contact point for the prosecution of organized crime in North Rhine-Westphalia (ZeOS NRW) at the public prosecutor’s office in Düsseldorf struck a big nationwide blow on Wednesday morning. A good 300 police officers and ten tax investigators presented search warrants at 55 objects, including 20 cities in North Rhine-Westphalia alone. In addition to Cologne, Leverkusen, Düsseldorf and Solingen, the Ruhr metropolises were particularly affected. In addition, the emergency services stormed offices and apartments in Berlin, Hamburg, Lower Saxony and Hesse in a concerted action. Two firearms were found.
At the same time, the investigators unearthed a fraudulent connection who, according to the public prosecutor, had ripped off seven million euros of state Corona immediately, along with bridging aid and funds from the Reconstruction Loan Corporation (KfW). In the complex, prosecutors list a total of 40 suspects. A group of four scammers is said to have staged the scam. The quartet founded shell companies via straw people, which then collected corona subsidies since 2020. On the one hand, the gang withdrew amounts in cash, on the other hand there were said to have been investments in the fraudulent car leasing complex of the Al Zein gangsters. The Corona crooks smuggled most of them into Turkey. “Given the enormous legal assistance problems with Ankara,” one investigator stated, “it is extremely unlikely that we will ever see this money again.”
A total of 57 suspects are being investigated in both cases, including five members of the Al Zein clan. The eight suspected masterminds from the two major proceedings have since been remanded in custody. As NRW Interior Minister Herbert Reul reported on Wednesday, there are five Turkish citizens and three with a German passport. With reference to the Corona procedure, the CDU politician spoke of “professional scammers” who had already financed their livelihood through scams in the past.
In both cases, “big fish” went into the net, emphasized the minister. Today’s mission shows once again: “We understand what the gangs are up to. We understand criminal structures. And we understand how clan criminals work.” With a view to the coalition dispute with the Greens on the clan concept, Reul sent another tip to the government partner: “We will not stop ending these machinations. We’ll get the other fish too.”
The undercover investigations into the two gangs also unearthed evidence of other crimes. An accused clan leader tried to blackmail a pub owner from Solingen. There was illegal gambling going on in the back room of the pub. According to FOCUS online information, the blackmailer, who is said to have posed as the governor of Solingen, demanded a 20 percent stake in the gambling table. For this he offered his protection. When the innkeeper refused, a clan troop stormed the shop and smashed the inventory. Both sides then agreed to hold a new gaming event in early 2022, from which the two brawlers wanted to benefit equally. The company failed. Because the police got wind of the project. Officers stormed the pub during the night and picked up the gambling round.