Illegal Gambling Among Charges Levied in Massive Global Interpol Bust

Posted on: December 20, 2023, 03:38h. 

Last updated on: December 20, 2023, 10:19h.

In what it hopes will be a major blow to cybercriminals worldwide, Interpol has wrapped up a joint international task force codenamed Operation HAECHI IV. It resulted in the arrest of thousands of suspected criminals who participated in an array of illegal activities, including illegal gambling.

The Interpol shield on one of its offices
The Interpol shield on one of its offices. A massive joint law enforcement operation targeting illegal gambling and other crimes has resulted in more than 3,500 arrests. (Image: Shutterstock)

In a press release on Tuesday, Interpol announced the arrest of 3,500 people and the seizure of more than $300 million in cash and digital assets. The six-month operation was funded by South Korea and involved law enforcement agencies from 34 countries.

Operation HAECHI IV, which began this past July, specifically targeted specific types of cyberscams. It was looking primarily at romance scams, online sextortion, money laundering linked to illegal online gambling, investment fraud, voice phishing, eCommerce fraud, and business email compromise (BEC) fraud.

The majority of the cases investigated in Operation HAECHI IV involved BEC fraud, eCommerce fraud, and investment fraud, which accounted for over 75% of the total cases. These scams typically involve tricking victims into revealing sensitive financial information or transferring funds to fraudulent accounts.

Interpol’s Purple Notices

Interpol, in particular, commended the collaborative efforts of the Philippines and South Korea. Their efforts resulted in the arrest of a criminal wanted on illegal online gambling charges in Manila. This arrest was the culmination of a two-year investigation by the Korean National Police Agency, although Interpol didn’t name the individual.

It also released two “purple notices” in conjunction with the busts, highlighting emerging trends and methods used by cybercriminals. These are alerts designed to inform law enforcement departments globally about specific threats and how they work.

One purple notice detailed a South Korean scam where investors were lured into acquiring nonfungible tokens (NFTs) with claims of lucrative returns. This scam, known as a “rug pull,” involved the scammers disappearing with the funds once investors had purchased the NFTs. The only thing the victims had left were worthless digital assets.

The other purple notice warned about the growing use of artificial intelligence (AI) and deepfake technology. Criminals are employing these technologies to mask their identities and impersonate individuals known to victims. They also create convincing fake content, making it more difficult for people to detect fraudulent activities.

Stopping the Flow of Money

To disrupt the flow of illicit funds, Operation HAECHI IV employed Interpol’s Global Rapid Intervention of Payments (I-GRIP) mechanism, which enables rapid and coordinated action at a global level to freeze suspicious bank accounts and seize assets linked to criminal activity.

As a result of these measures, the operation blocked 82,112 suspicious bank accounts. It also seized over $199 million in hard currency and $101 million in virtual assets.

Interpol added that Argentina, Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, Cayman Islands, Ghana, Hong Kong (China), India, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Poland, South Korea, Romania, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, the UK, the US, and Vietnam all participated in the operation.