INTERPOL-coordinated global operation HAECHI-II targets cyber-enabled financial crime

HAECHI-IIINTERPOL-coordinated Operation HAECHI-II, which ran from June to September 2021, targeted the global threat of cyber-enabled financial crime.  As a result police arrested over 1,000 individuals and intercepted a total of nearly USD 27 million of illicit funds.

The operation brought together specialised police units from 20 countries, as well as from Hong Kong and Macau, to target specific types of online fraud, such as romance scams, investment fraud and money laundering associated with illegal online gambling.

This resulted in the arrest of 1,003 individuals and allowed investigators to close 1,660 cases.  In addition 2,350 bank accounts linked to the illicit proceeds of online financial crime were blocked.  Over 50 INTERPOL notices were published based on information relating to Operation HAECHI-II and 10 new criminal modus operandi were identified.  The results  show that transnational organised crime groups have been using the Internet to extract millions from their victims, before funnelling the illicit cash to bank accounts across the globe.

HAECHI-II is the second operation in a 3-year project to tackle cyber-enabled financial crime supported by the Republic of Korea, and the first that is truly global in scope.  INTERPOL member countries on every continent participated.  Information gained during HAECHI-II enabled INTERPOL to publish multiple Purple Notices – international police alerts that seek or provide information on modus operandi, objects, devices and concealment methods used by criminals.  The notices are then shared with INTERPOL’s 194 member countries so that police can exchange on emerging criminal methods and establish connections between cases.

One Purple Notice requested by Colombia during the operation details a malware-laden mobile application using the name and branding of the Netflix show ‘Squid Game’.  Masquerading as a product affiliated with the popular television series, the app was in fact a Trojan horse virus that, once downloaded, was able to hack the user’s billing information and subscribe to paid ‘premium’ services without the user’s explicit approval.  While flagged in Colombia, the app has also targeted users in other countries.

The operation also saw INTERPOL officials pilot test a new global stop-payment mechanism – the Anti-Money Laundering Rapid Response Protocol (ARRP) – which proved critical to successfully intercepting illicit funds in several HAECHI-II cases.  INTERPOL will officially launch the ARRP next year, and their Financial Crime Unit is continuing to work with member countries to integrate the system into existing communications channels.

The following countries participated in Operation HAECHI-II: Angola, Brunei, Cambodia, Colombia, China, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Korea (Rep. of), Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Philippines, Romania, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The INTERPOL Financial Crime Unit participates in EAST Global Congress and Interim Meetings and in meetings of the EAST Expert Groups on Payment and Transaction Fraud (EAST EPTF) and All Terminal Fraud (EAST EGAF).

EFECC launched by Europol

Today Europol launched the new European Financial and Economic Crime Centre (EFECC). The Centre will enhance the operational support provided to the EU Member States and EU bodies in the fields of financial and economic crime and promote the systematic use of financial investigations. The new EFECC has been set up within the current organisational structure of Europol that is already playing an important part in the European response to financial and economic crime and will be staffed with 65 international experts and analysts.

Economic and financial crimes are a highly complex and a significant threat affecting millions of individual EU citizens and thousands of companies in the EU every year. In addition: money laundering and criminal finances are the engines of organised crime, without them criminals would not be able to make use of the illicit profits they generate with the various serious and organised crime activities carried out in the EU. According to previous reports by Europol, 98.9% of estimated criminal profits are not confiscated and remain at the disposal of criminals.

Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe has provided ample evidence that criminals are quick to adapt their criminal schemes to changing conditions to exploit fears and vulnerabilities. Economic stimuli such as those proposed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic will be targeted by criminals seeking to defraud public funding. To effectively disrupt and deter criminals involved in serious and organised crime, law enforcement authorities need to follow the money trail as a regular part of their criminal investigations with the objective of seizing criminal profits.

The exponential increase of financial and economic crime and the involvement of organised crime on a large scale, together with the number of requests for operational support from EU Member States, called for an adequate and coordinated European response.

A strategic report published today provides an overview of the most threatening phenomena in the area of economic and financial crime including various types of fraud, the production and distribution of counterfeit goods, money laundering and others.

Europol launched the European Financial and Economic Crime Centre at a press conference at its headquarters, modelled along the lines of similar initiatives such as the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) the European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC), the European Migrant Smuggling Centre (EMSC) and the European Serious Organised Crime Centre (ESOCC) hosted at Europol.

EAST and Europol have worked together in partnership since 2004