INTERPOL-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).