Bust of Money Mule Network Leads to 1,803 ArrestsDecember 1, 2021
A joint investigation of multiple agencies against the international network of money mules has come to an end that results in 1,803 arrests and the identification of 18,351 money mules, Europol announced on Wednesday.
These money mules were used to launder money extorted from a wide array of online scams like sim-swapping, man-in-the-middle attacks, e-commerce fraud, phishing and forex scams.
The investigation also identified 324 recruiters/herders and initiated further 2,503 investigations. The agencies have flagged 7,000 fraudulent transactions and prevented the loss of €67.5 million.
The mass investigation was named EMMA 7 and lasted for two and a half months. It was coordinated by Europol and received cooperation from the authorities in 27 countries, along with Eurojust, INTERPOL, the European Banking Federation (EBF), and the FinTech FinCrime Exchange.
Several financial institutions and private sector companies, including Western Union, Microsoft, and Fourthline, also helped the agencies in busting the massive network of money mules and also targeting the laundering profits. The agencies also received intelligence on the source of illicit profits to know about the size and nature of the criminal economy.
International Criminal Operation
“Most of the investigations under EMMA 7 focused on the international dimension of muling,” Europol stated.
The investigation also found that the money mules not only transfer money between countries, but also travel across international borders to overseas bank accounts. Criminals can then use these accounts later on in support of the money laundering process.
“The complexity of money muling operations, and law enforcement’s response to them, reflect how muling networks are created,” Europol added. “Unlike many financial crimes, money mules can be recruited unknowingly into the criminal operation. The organized crime groups do this by preying on groups such as students, immigrants, and those in economic distress, offering easy money through legitimate-looking job adverts and social media posts.”
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