Conmen posed as French foreign minister to steal €8 million, police say

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Israeli police have arrested three men accused of scamming €8 million (£6.8 million) from a businessman by impersonating the French foreign minister.

The suspects, said to be French-Israelis, reportedly created a replica of Jean-Yves Le Drian’s Paris office in Israel to conduct Skype calls.

They allegedly told targets that the money was needed for secret operations and to pay ransom money for hostages in Syria and Mali.

All three men deny any involvement.

The suspects, aged between 37 and 47, are accused of attempting to scam business owners and directors of large companies on the French stock market, telling their marks that the transactions had to be kept secret.

Only one person approached by the group handed over cash, according to Israeli media reports.

According to the reports, the conmen built a replica of Mr Le Drian’s French foreign ministry office at a location in Israel, including matching furniture, a portrait of French president Emmanuel Macron and a French flag in the background.

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One of the men is said to have pretended to be Mr Le Drian for the purposes of video conferences from the office. A source told Le Parisien: “They phoned, sent emails and sometimes used the Skype video chat software to pretend to be the minister himself.”

French police worked with Israel’s Lahav 433 unit to locate the suspects in Tel Aviv. The suspects were caught while approaching a new victim who was preparing to pay €2 million (£1.7 million), the French newspaper reported.

Officers reportedly accompanied the woman to a meeting on 26 February and were able to locate and track down the men.

Two were arrested and one attempted to flee but was later apprehended. Officers reportedly seized a yacht in Tel Aviv in connection with the case.

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