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The organised crime operation involved phishing scams and numerous business email compromise attacks.
A joint operation led by Europol, the Spanish National Police (Policía Nacional), the Italian National Police (Polizia di Stato), and Eurojust has resulted in the arrest of 106 suspects that were spread across Spain and Italy.
According to Europol, the criminal gang used phishing scams, SIM swapping techniques, and Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks to defraud individuals, mounting to profits worth USD 11.7 million (€10 million) throughout 2020.
Labelled as “very well organised”, the criminal gang included computer crime experts that were tasked with the execution of phishing scams and other cyber fraud plans. Cryptocurrency experts, money mules, and money launderers were also found to be involved in the criminal network.
Reports suggest that the crime group originated from the Canary Islands, Spain, and were tricking victims – mostly from Italy – into sending substantial amounts of funds into dedicated bank accounts, before laundering those funds through money mules and shell companies.
According to a 2019 report by the FBI, BEC is one of the most lucrative types of cybercrime, leading to losses worth billions in recent years.
On top of the 106 arrests, the joint operation also led to the freezing of 118 bank accounts along with the seizure of a number of devices, including 224 credit cards, SIM cards and point-of-sale terminals.
Europol had been investigating the group for over a year prior to these arrests. As part of the operation, Europol deployed two analysts and one forensic expert to Tenerife, Spain and one analyst to Italy. Europol also funded the deployment of three Italian investigators to Tenerife to support the Spanish authorities during the action day.
Suggested Read: AML Solutions: Eliminating the Risks of Money Laundering