The operation involved 27 countries, including the United States and numerous members of the European Union, the European agency for judicial cooperation Eurojust, Interpol, as well as banks, exchange firms and technology companies.
“This is the largest international operation of its kind,” said Europol, which is based in The Hague. “Financial mules were used to launder money for a wide range of online scams,” including ‘phishing’ attacks to hack messaging accounts, “he added.
Criminal groups routinely use vulnerable people who “without knowing” allow them to move money originated through scams, escaping the radar of international financial laws.
Europol explained that criminal groups use students, immigrants and people with economic needs, offering them easy money with job offers that appear to be legitimate and through social media posts.
About 400 banks and financial institutions participated in the operation, which lasted for three months, from September to November.
During this period, 7,000 suspicious transactions were reported to investigators, allowing 324 “mule recruiters” to be identified.
Law enforcement agencies also collaborated with private companies such as Western Union, Microsoft and Fourthline, Europol said.