INTERPOL’s online fraud crackdown has led to the arrest of close to 1,000 cybercriminals and the recovery of nearly $130 million worth of digital and financial assets.
“In total, the operation resulted in the arrest of 975 individuals and allowed investigators to resolve more than 1,600 cases. In addition, almost 2,800 bank and virtual-asset accounts linked to the illicit proceeds of online financial crime were blocked,” INTERPOL announced.
The operation involved law enforcement agencies of at least 30 countries from all continents between June 28 and November 23.
INTERPOL’s Operation HAECHI III puts notorious cybercriminals behind bars
Operation HAECHI III targeted various online crimes such as voice phishing, romance scams, sextortion, investment fraud, and money laundering associated with illegal online gambling.
The operation led to the publication of 95 notices, including Red Notices for two fugitives. The South Korean duo was wanted in connection to a global Ponzi scheme, including the embezzlement of €28 million from 2,000 South Koreans. The two suspects were arrested in Greece and Italy during the five-month-long operation.
Indian and Australian INTERPOL National Central Bureaus (NCBs) also arrested suspected cybercriminals who impersonated the law enforcement agency’s officers and convinced victims to transfer $159,000 via gift cards, cryptocurrency, and financial institutions.
The cybercriminals convinced their targets that their identities had been stolen and used to commit drug-related crimes. They then instructed the victims to transfer their money and virtual assets to a “trust account” to clear themselves of the alleged crimes.
Indian NCB raided the suspects’ call centers in New Delhi and Noida, apprehended the cybercriminals, and collected curial evidence, including four cryptocurrency wallets. Authorities seized 25.83 Bitcoin, $37,000 stored in several digital wallets, and a bank account with another $37,000 from one of the suspected cybercriminals.
Similarly, INTERPOL recovered $1.25 million stolen through business email compromise (BEC) scams in Ireland.
According to INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock, the operation’s success resulted from following the money and cross-border cooperation of law enforcement agencies through INTERPOL. Stock highlighted the need to deprive cybercriminals of their illegal gains, noting that the operation allowed the countries to achieve that objective.
HAECHI III is the third operation by the international law enforcement cooperation body targeting cybercriminals across international borders. In November 2021, HAECHI II enabled law enforcement agencies to arrest 1,000 cybercriminals and recover $27 million. In May 2021, operation HAECHI I involving 40 law enforcement agencies across the Asia-Pacific region led to the recovery of $83 million from cybercriminals.
New crime trends and the Anti-Money Laundering Rapid Response Protocol
During the operation, INTERPOL launched the Anti-Money Laundering Rapid Response Protocol (ARRP), allowing countries to request and assist others in dealing with the proceeds of crime.
Since January, ARRP has assisted countries in recovering over $120 million from cybercriminals involved in various online digital malpractices. Additionally, the operation helped INTERPOL to uncover 16 new crime trends, including variations of romance scams and sextortion and the use of encrypted messaging apps to promote fake crypto wallets.
The discoveries will assist law enforcement agencies in taking down cybercriminals involved in such activities across the globe.