Law enforcement agencies from 17 countries, along with Europol, executed a major crackdown on money mules across Europe this week, arresting 178 people in connection with operations that resulted in losses of more than €23 million.
The action included authorities from the UK, France, Germany, the United States, Romania, and many other countries, and is the second major one to go after money mules specifically. A number of banks and other private companies were involved in the operation as well, and Europol officials said 95 percent of the crimes involved in the money mule crackdown were part of cybercrime operations. Money mules are key parts of many cybercrime groups, and are used as intermediaries to help launder money stolen from victims. Usually, they take deposits from other members of the group, keep a small portion of the money, and then move the rest on to another account.
“To effectively tackle money mules, we need seamless cross-border cooperation among judicial and law enforcement authorities with the private actors. It is important to understand that money laundering may on the surface seem to be a small crime, but is orchestrated by organised crime groups, that is what we need to inform the public about,” said Michèle Coninsx, president of Eurojust.
“Therefore, the European Money Mule Action II is paramount to stop people being lured and recruited into aiding serious crime, to break this crime link, by being aware of who is behind this type of crime.”
Going after money mules has become one of the more effective methods for disrupting cybercrime operations. Cutting off the flow of money has the dual effect of removing a piece of the larger cybercrime puzzle while also frustrating the other members of the group, who then have to recruit new money mules to replace the lost ones.
In February, Europol and agencies from many of the same countries that participated in this week’s raids executed a similar action that resulted in 81 arrests.
Image: Andy, public domain.