Police authorities of 26 countries, with the support of Europol, Eurojust and the European Banking Federation (EBF), have joined forces in the third coordinated worldwide action against money mules, with the European Money Mule Action ‘EMMA3’. During the week of action, which took place from the 20th to the 24st November 2017, 159 people were arrested across Europe, 409 were interviewed by police authorities and 766 money mules were detected. The EMMA3 has evolved since prior editions to fight not only against money mules but also those who recruit offenders. This led to the identification of 59 recruiters.
At the same time, the monetary sensitisation #DontBeaMule campaign was launched to warn the general public against this crime.
Money mules are recruited by criminal organisations as money laundering intermediaries to receive and transfer funds obtained illegally from and to bank accounts and countries. This illegal liquidation helps to finance other kinds of organised crime, such as drug trafficking, people trafficking and on line crime.
With the support of 257 banks and members from the private sector, 1,719 operations of money mules were documented, with total losses of almost 31 million Euros. Among these transactions there was money laundering, over 90% of these were associated with crimes related to cybercrime, like phishing or online auction fraud. For the first time, the police authorities informed of fraud in the context of holiday reservations. Moreover, a growing use of bitcoins as a money laundering system by criminal groups was detected.
The third week of action by EMMA3 is the continuation of a project carried out under the umbrella of the plan of operative action of fraudulent payments EMPACT, designed to combat payment and online fraud, led by the Netherlands.
EMMA3 demonstrates that an association between the public and private sector, the police, legal authorities and the banking system is essential to be able to effectively address financial contraband as an illegal activity.
Criminals usually use innocent victims to launder money in their name with the promise of easy money via apparently legal advertising spots, publications on line, mass media and other methods. Newcomers to a country, the unemployed, students and people with economic difficulties are frequently among the most susceptible to commit this crime.
Even if money mules act without realising it, they are committing a crime by laundering the illegal product of a crime. In accordance with the judicial framework of the country, they may face a prison sentence or community service, or never be able to aspire to a mortgage or open a bank account.
Unveiling these schemes for liquidating money and making the public aware are vital to prevent criminals from taking advantage of people who are at an economic disadvantage. Legal companies will never ask people to use their bank accounts or to transfer money by using their accounts. People must never give access, nor provide their bank accounts or electronic purse, to people who are unknown to them or not trustworthy.
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