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).

Investment fraud gang taken down in Bulgaria and Serbia

Investment fraudA large criminal network involved in investment fraud, money laundering and social engineering was taken down in an international investigation, launched one year ago. The action day, which took place in Belgrade and Sofia, went ahead on 2 April despite the current lockdown.

Estimated total losses were €80 million and the fraud affected over 1,000 victims in Germany and Austria, as well as people in other countries.  In Austria  it is estimated that 850 victims lost around €2.2 million, while in Germany hundreds of victims suffered estimated losses of about €10 million.

The suspects, believed to be members of a large criminal network, offered bogus investments in trading products such as binary options and contract for differences (CFDs) on online trading platforms.  The investments started at around €250 and Agents from call centres in Bulgaria and Serbia then manipulated the victims to make much higher investments in non-existent trading products including CFDs and forex (foreign exchange currency market).

During the action day Law enforcement authorities from Bulgaria and Serbia carried out 11 house searches and arrested 9 individuals (5 in Serbia and 4 in Bulgaria). Two of the leaders of the criminal network were arrested in Sofia. The seizures include five properties in Serbia, €2.5 million from a bank account in Germany, electronic equipment and other evidential material. 30 other bank accounts were put under surveillance.  

Advisory Group on Financial ServicesEuropol and Eurojust supported the investment fraud investigation, which involved law enforcement and judicial authorities from Austria, Bulgaria, Germany and Serbia.  

Europol facilitated information exchange and provided analytical support, cross-checking operational information in real-time against its databases to provide leads to investigators in the field, and a Joint Investigation Team between Austria and Germany was set up by Eurojust to coordinate judicial matters.

EAST and Europol have worked together since 2004 and EAST provides secure platforms for public/private sector cooperation in the fight against organised criminal groups engaged in financial crime.  Click here for more information on EAST’s law enforcement relationships.

The EAST Payments Task Force (EPTF) has a specific focus on tackling social enginnering  This Group, which meets twice a year, adds value to the payments industry by using the unique and extensive EAST National Member platform and Associate Member network to provide information and outputs that are not currently available elsewhere.