We reported yesterday on the decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in the Gal Barak case. In 2020, he was convicted and sentenced for investment fraud and money laundering in Austria. In Germany, prosecutors want to charge Gal Barak and his wife, Marina Barak, as ringleaders of the cybercrime organization E&G Bulgaria. Barak had entered a ne bis in idem plea. Apparently unsuccessfully. Thus, German prosecutors can proceed with their charges.
The Case Briefing
This is a brief summary of the complex court case surrounding E&G Bulgaria and Gal Barak.
- The partners in crime: Gal Barak, the son of an Israeli police officer, and his partners, Israeli Gery Shalon and Russian Vladislav Smirnov, operated a network of broker scams such as XTraderFX, SafeMarkets, OptionStars, or CryptoPoint through Bulgaria-based E&G Bulgaria. Barak’s Bulgarian wife Marina Barak (formerly Marina Andreeva) is believed by authorities to have been involved as chief financial officer and ringleader.
- Defrauded victims: According to former partners, over €200 million was stolen from tens of thousands of European victims.
- The arrest: Barak was arrested in early 2019 and initially charged in Austria with harming Austrian victims.
- Convictions and sentencing: In September 2020, Barak was sentenced to four years in prison for investment fraud and money laundering. Barak was also ordered to pay approximately €4 million in restitution. To date, the victims have not seen any of this.
- The acquittal: Barak’s wife Marina was strangely acquitted in the Austrian trial, although both Austrian and German investigators had evidence of her involvement.
- German extradition request: In 2021, Barak was to be extradited to Germany to stand trial for harming German victims. Likewise, prosecutors have planned an indictment against Marina Barak. Former lieutenants of Barak, such as Jacki Fitelzon, were punished much more severely in Germany than Barak was in corruption-friendly, naive Austria (report here).
- The objection: Through his Austrian lawyer, Barak has filed a ne bis in idem objection to the German charges. The German court in Bamberg referred the matter to the CJEU and asked for a legal opinion, as EU law was also involved.
- Suspended Arrest Order: In the meantime, the German arrest order was suspended pending the CJEU decision. Gal Barak has been released on parole and is staying in Israel with his wife and their child.
- The cybercrime fund: In the summer of 2022, Gal Barak established the $20 million cybercrime fund Vantage (www.vantage.io) in Israel to provide financial assistance to convicted cybercrime offenders (report here). A mockery of the victims, who have not yet seen any restitution payment. No trace of remorse.
- The CJEU opinion: The European Court of Justice, on March 23, 2023, delivered its opinion and very well allowed an indictment.
It is now up to the German prosecutors to continue the charges against the Baraks and get justice for the victims. Moreover, the opinion of the European Court of Justice, in principle, allows for further indictments in other jurisdictions within the EU if victims live there. This seems to be a reasonable and fair approach.
If you have any information about Gal Barak, his partners Gery Shalon and Vladislav Smirnov, their network, and their activities, please share it with us through our whistleblower system.