POLICE in 25 countries arrested almost 2,500 in a co-ordinated operation against money mules and money laundering, Europol said today.
The strike was carried out between mid-September and the end of November with the aim of targeting the mules and their recruiters.
This year around 1,800 banks and financial institutions supported law enforcement in the action, alongside online money transfer services, cryptocurrency exchanges, Fintech and KYC companies, and multinational computer technology corporations.
The announcement was made to mark a week of awareness in the #DontBeaMule campaign.
The campaign is available for download in 26 languages and will inform the public about how these criminals operate, how they can recognise the signs and what to do if they become a target.
The agencies involved included Europol, Eurojust, Interpol and the European Banking Federation (EBF).
In a statement today Europol said 8,755 money mules were identified alongside 222 money mule recruiters, and 2,469 individuals were arrested worldwide. Other outcomes included:
- 1,648 criminal investigations initiated;
- 4,089 fraudulent transactions identified;
- €17.5 million intercepted.
The weeks of action were part of the European Money Mule Action (EMMA8) has gone international, with actions carried out in countries as far apart as Colombia, Singapore and Australia.
EMMA – now in its eight year – is the largest international operation of its kind, built around the idea that public-private information sharing is key to fighting complex modern crimes.
The countries which participated were: Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Colombia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Singapore and Hong Kong (China), Ireland, Italy, Moldova, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, United Kingdom, United States.
In a statement to media today (Monday), Europol said: “The issue may seem trivial, yet the amount of criminal money being laundered through this method is not. Money mules are a significant part of the money laundering landscape, enabling criminals to swiftly move funds across a network of accounts, often in different countries.
“The use of money mules is especially widespread in cybercrime, with the mules transfer the proceeds from their jurisdiction to the criminal’s home country.”