From 22 to 26 February 2016, law enforcement agencies and judicial bodies from Belgium, Denmark, Greece, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Romania, Spain and Portugal – with further support from Moldova and other countries – joined forces in the first coordinated European action against money muling. The operation was also supported by Europol, Eurojust and the European Banking Federation (EBF).
Money mules are individuals recruited by criminal organisations to receive and transfer illegally obtained money between bank accounts and/or countries. Through the money mules, the criminals gain access to the stolen goods or funds without revealing their identity. These fraudulent schemes are often advertised through online postings and social media as seemingly legitimate job opportunities.
During the week, Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) and the Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce (J-CAT), together with Eurojust and the EBF, provided operational and analytical support to the involved partners. As a result of the operation, nearly 700 money mules were identified across Europe and 81 individuals were arrested after 198 suspects were interviewed by law enforcement agencies. With the support of over 70 banks, significant financial losses were discovered and prevented, and over 900 victims of this crime were identified. More than 90% of the reported money mule transactions were linked to cybercrime (typically the illegal funds come from phishing, malware attacks, on-line shopping/e-Commerce fraud, payment card fraud, sophisticated Nigerian on-line fraud, and others).
The European Money Mule Action (EMMA) is a pilot operational project under the flag of EMPACT Cybercrime Payment Fraud Operational Action Plan, designed to combat online and payment card fraud. EMMA is modelled after a Dutch example successfully employed in recent years in the Netherlands. This action builds upon the effective partnership between the police, the prosecution and the banking sector at the national as well as the international level.