Police have arrested three men in connection with an international, multimillion-pound camera theft operation.

A 31-year-old was arrested yesterday at a residential address in north London for conspiracy to defraud and money laundering. A quantity of cash was seized during the operation.

Officers from the London Regional Fraud Team (LRFT) also searched six addresses in dawn raids in London and Hertfordshire.

The police investigation began after a north London hire company – believed to be Panavision – contacted the City of London police in October to say that a man who claimed to work for a company called World Wide Broadcasting Solutions attempted to hire kit worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The company name World Wide Broadcasting Solutions had been used to hire equipment that was never returned from Panavision’s Belgium office.

On 5 November officers from the LRFT were waiting at Panavision in London as two men arrived to pick up the equipment. They were both arrested on suspicion of fraud by false representation. They are currently on bail until later this month.

City of London police said that further investigation uncovered that 21 companies have been defrauded in 11 countries, across five continents. They estimate that the cost of the thefts exceeds a million pounds.

Detective inspector Matt Mountford said: “This organised criminal gang managed to fool companies into believing they were a legitimate business and hand over filming equipment worth tens of thousands of pounds.

“Working internationally made it harder for law enforcement agencies to identify a series of thefts in 11 countries worldwide.

“Working with police forces across the globe, we have unearthed the true scale of their crimes. Today is a culmination of a lot of hard work by my officers.”

The UK’s broadcast kit supply sector has been regularly hit by fraudulent hires and thefts.

In January last year, companies in London and Manchester lost around £20,000 worth of equipment, while 2013 saw facilities across the country lose upwards of £750,000 worth of high-end cameras and lenses.

In 2012, a gang of fraudsters were arrested in connection with the theft of £600,000 worth of cameras and accessories from HotCam after attempting to steal more kit from reseller CVP.