Interpol on Thursday announced the seizure of $130 million worth of virtual assets in connection with a global crackdown on cyber-enabled financial crimes and money laundering.
The international police operation, dubbed HAECHI-III, transpired between June 28 and November 23, 2022, resulting in the arrests of 975 individuals and the closure of more than 1,600 cases.
This comprised two fugitives wanted by South Korea for their supposed involvement in a Ponzi scheme to embezzle €28 million from 2,000 victims.
Another instance pertained to a call center scam based out of India, wherein a group of criminals impersonated Interpol and Europol officers to trick victims in Austria into transferring funds. The call centers operated from New Delhi and Noida.
The illegal activity informed the victims that their “identities were stolen and crime pertaining to narcotics drugs were committed in their names,” forcing them to make a money transfer.
“In order to clear themselves of this suspicion, the victims were compelled to transfer their assets/money to a trust account through bank transfers, crypto wallets, gift card codes, or voucher codes,” the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) disclosed last month.
Raids conducted by the agency led to the confiscation of 25.83 Bitcoin as well as about $37,000 in different digital wallets. A bank account of one of the suspects, which held $37,000, was also frozen.
Interpol noted that the call center scam led victims to transfer a total of $159,000 and that four cryptocurrency wallets used by the scamsters were seized. In all, nearly 2,800 bank and virtual-asset accounts that were used to launder the illicitly obtained funds were blocked over the course of the five-month operation.
Per law enforcement, the probe specifically singled out a wide range of online financial crimes such as voice phishing, romance scams, sextortion, investment fraud, and money laundering associated with illegal online gambling.
Some of the emerging cybercrime trends uncovered include variations of romance scams and sextortion, not to mention the use of encrypted messaging apps for promoting bogus crypto wallet schemes, authorities noted.
Operation HAECHI-III also comes exactly a year after Interpol publicized the arrests of more than 1,000 cyber criminals and the recovery of $27 million as part of HAECHI-II.