In an operation coordinated by the Interpol, enforcement agencies in more than 20 countries have arrested over 1,000 individuals and intercepted about $27 million of illicit funds as part of a crackdown on cyber-enabled financial crime.
India was one of the participants.
The operation codenamed ‘HAECHI-II’ was conducted over four months from June to September. Specialised police units from 20 countries, including Hong Kong and Macau, took part in the exercise to target specific types of online fraud, such as “romance” scams, investment fraud and money laundering linked to illegal online gambling, said the Interpol.
The operation resulted in the arrest of 1,003 individuals and helped investigators close 1,660 cases.
“In addition, 2,350 bank accounts linked to the illicit proceeds of online financial crime were blocked. More than 50 Interpol notices were published based on information relating to Operation HAECHI-II and 10 new criminal modus operandi were identified,” it said.
It is the second such operation in a three-year project launched to tackle cyber-enabled financial crime, in participation with the Interpol member countries in every continent.
“The operation also saw Interpol officials pilot test a new global stop-payment mechanism – the Anti-Money Laundering Rapid Response Protocol (ARRP) – which proved critical to successfully intercepting illicit funds in several HAECHI-II cases,” said the Interpol.
The results showed that the surge in offences generated by the COVID-19 pandemic had not waned.
“Only through this level of global cooperation and coordination can national law enforcement effectively tackle what is a parallel cybercrime pandemic,” said Interpol Secretary-General Jürgen Stock.
The Interpol plans to officially launch the ARRP next year. Its financial crime unit is currently working with member countries to integrate the system into the existing communication channels.
Quoting a case detected during the operation, the Interpol said a prominent textiles company in Colombia was cheated of more than $8 million through a sophisticated business email compromise scam. Impersonating as the legal company’s legal representative, the perpetrators gave an order to transfer over $16 million to two Chinese bank accounts.
Half of the money was transferred before the company detected the fraud and alerted the local judicial authorities, which contacted the Interpol’s financial crime unit via their National Central Bureau (NCB).
“Leveraging the new ARRP network, international police cooperation channels were activated among Interpol bureaus in Beijing, Bogota and Hong Kong to freeze the transferred funds...over 94% of the money was intercepted in record time...,” the organisation said.
Based on the findings during the operation, the Interpol published multiple Purple Notices – police alerts that seek or provide information on modus operandi, objects, devices and concealment methods used by criminals. The notices are shared with the member countries to enable exchange of information on emerging criminal methods and establish links between cases.
One such notice, requested by Colombia, detailed a malware-laden mobile application using the name and brand of Netflix show ‘Squid Game.’ The app was in fact a Trojan horse virus that, once downloaded, could hack into the user’s billing information and subscribe to paid “premium” services without the user’s explicit approval, said the Interpol.