'Money mules' arrested in Europe sting

2016-11-22 22:30


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The Hague - European and US law officials arrested at least 178 people in an international swoop against so-called "money mules" who helped launder millions of dollars, EU agencies announced on Tuesday.

Across Europe, some 580 suspected "money mules" - people recruited to act as laundering agents for criminal gangs -- were identified during last week's operation, judicial co-operation agency Eurojust and Europol said.

"After receiving the illegally-obtained funds into their accounts, the individuals acting as money mules are asked to wire the money into a different account," said a joint statement, which also included the European Banking Federation.

"These schemes are often disguised as legitimate job opportunities and the mules may keep some of the money for themselves as a commission," it said, adding that an estimated 23 million euros was laundered globally.

The mules played a crucial role in money laundering as criminal networks gain access to stolen goods or funds without revealing their identity.

If caught, they face jail time, a fine, community service or having to refund the proceeds to victims, said the agencies, who assisted 14 EU countries as well as Ukraine and Moldova, with the help of the FBI and the US Secret Service, the statement said.

Police questioned 380 suspects in the operation that particularly targeted online payments and credit card fraud, with the agencies saying 95% of all the money mule transactions were linked to cybercrime.

The swoop was supported by 106 banks and private organisations and backed by Europol's EC3 cybercrime centre, the statement said.

"It is important to understand that money laundering may on the surface seem to be a small crime, but it is orchestrated by organised crime groups," Eurojust chief Michele Coninsx said.

Read more on:    europol  |  europe

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