National anti-money laundering campaign arrests 21, recovers $1.8 million

Australian police agencies have charged 21 alleged offenders in Australia and prevented $1.8 million being lost to cyber criminals

The AFP worked with state and territory police to identify 117 money mules operating in Australia under a national anti-money laundering campaign.

In addition to the arrests, 52 warning letters were issued, 15 interventions were undertaken, and 14 investigations remain ongoing. A money mule is a person who transfers money, which is typically from the proceeds of crime, on behalf of another individual, often for a commission.

The campaign was run by the AFP-led Taskforce Dolos as part of Europol’s eighth annual global anti-money mule operation, known as European Money Mule Action 8 (EMMA8).

During the global operational phase carried out between mid-September to the end of November 2022, there were 2469 money mules arrested, alongside the identification of 222 money mule recruiters.

There were 1648 criminal investigations initiated, 4089 fraudulent transactions identified and 17.5 million Euros was intercepted.

EMMA is the largest international operation of its kind.

This year about 1800 international banks and financial institutions, including 10 Australian banks, supported law enforcement in this action, alongside online money transfer services and cryptocurrency exchanges.

While many mules are aware they are money laundering, some individuals are not and are made to believe they are transferring money for legitimate reasons.

Money mule recruiters often ask for help transferring money while posing as an online friend or love interest, someone offering a way to make easy money or someone claiming to need help using their own bank account.

AFP Commander Cybercrime Operations Chris Goldsmid said money muling was a complex, borderless and fluid crime which required a global response.

“By concentrating our efforts with our law enforcement partners through EMMA8, we have been able to achieve incredible outcomes on both a domestic and international scale,” Commander Goldsmid said.

“The AFP has extensive international networks and we frequently liaise with our law enforcement counterparts to identify and disrupt transnational money laundering syndicates.

“These mules are a significant part of the criminal business model which enables syndicates to move dirty money across a complex network of accounts, often branching into different countries.”

To raise awareness about this crime and its criminal implications, Europol, together with the AFP and other international partners and financial institutions have launched the #DontBeAMule campaign.

Do you think you might be used as a mule? Act now before it is too late. Stop transferring money and notify your bank and the police immediately.

Operation Dolos is a multiagency taskforce consisting of the AFP and all state and territory policing agencies, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australian Cyber Security Centre, AUSTRAC, the Australian financial sector and international law enforcement agencies to provide a cohesive and coordinated response to combat Business Email Compromise and associated frauds targeting Australian businesses.

If you are the victim of cybercrime you can report to police using Report Cyber at cyber.gov.au.

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