3,500 Arrested in Global Operation HAECHI-IV Targeting Financial Criminals

20.12.2023

An international law enforcement initiative spanning six months, designated as Operation HAECHI-IV, has culminated in the apprehension of nearly 3,500 individuals and the confiscation of assets valued at $300 million across 34 nations.

Conducted between July and December 2023, the operation primarily targeted an array of financial crimes, encompassing activities such as voice phishing, romance scams, online sextortion, investment fraud, money laundering linked to illicit online gambling, business email compromise fraud, and e-commerce fraud.

During the operation, authorities took measures to freeze associated bank and virtual asset service provider (VASP) accounts with the aim of obstructing access to illicit gains. In total, 82,112 suspicious bank accounts were blocked, resulting in the seizure of $199 million in physical currency and $101 million in virtual assets.

Interpol, the international police organization, highlighted the success of collaboration between Filipino and Korean authorities, leading to the arrest of a high-profile online gambling criminal in Manila after a two-year pursuit by Korea’s National Police Agency.

Predominantly, investment fraud, business email compromise, and e-commerce fraud constituted 75% of the cases. The agency noted the detection of a new scam in South Korea involving the fraudulent sale of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), promising substantial returns before orchestrating a sudden exit, commonly known as a “rug pull.

A noteworthy trend identified in the operation pertained to the increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI) and deepfake technology to enhance the authenticity of scams. This enabled criminals to impersonate individuals known to the victims, engaging in deception, fraud, harassment, and extortion through impersonation scams, online sexual blackmail, and investment fraud.

Operation HAECHI-IV follows HAECHI-III by over a year, during which $130 million worth of virtual assets were seized in a global crackdown on cyber-enabled financial crimes and money laundering.

Stephen Kavanagh, an official at Interpol, emphasized the gravity of the situation, stating, “The seizure of $300 million represents a staggering sum and clearly illustrates the incentive behind today’s explosive growth of transnational organized crime. This vast accumulation of unlawful wealth is a serious threat to global security and weakens the economic stability of nations worldwide.

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