Police in 12 countries have arrested 178 people accused of involvement in an international credit card cloning ring that is believed to have netted crooks around EUR20 million.
According to the Spanish Interior ministry, the arrests come after a two-year investigation that culminated in 84 raids in Spain, Italy, Romania, France, Germany, Ireland, Sweden, Greece, Finland, Hungary, the US and Australia.
The raids turned up 11 cloning 'laboratories' with around 120,000 card numbers and 5000 fake cards found in Spain alone.
Spanish authorities says the criminal organisation split into country-specific sub-groups to carry out their fraud, each with a leader that was in contact with the overall head.
The cloned cards were used to make withdrawals at ATMs and purchases in stores, say officials but the gang is also accused of various other criminal activities, including robbery with force, fraud, extortion, sexual exploitation and money laundering.