Global money muling operation stings Australians

Editor's note: Radio grabs from Acting Commander Cybercrime are available for download.

Seventeen Australians have been charged under a global money-laundering sting led in Australia by the AFP, which has also prevented $2.6 million of dirty cash washing through the country's financial institutions.

The AFP-led Taskforce DOLOS partnered with Europol's seventh annual global anti-money mule operation, known as European Money Mule Action 7 (EMMA7), leading to 1803 arrests around the world.

In Australia, the 17 alleged offenders have been charged by New South Wales Police Force, Queensland Police and Victoria Police.

An 18th person has been questioned by Western Australia Police and investigations are ongoing.

AFP cybercrime investigators, in conjunction with Taskforce DOLOS, also stopped more than $2.6 million from being laundered through Australian financial institutions.

Twenty-seven money mules were identified in Australia, with two allegedly the head of money laundering organisations. Money mules are used by criminals to transfer money, usually cash from the proceeds of crime.

Nine warning letters have been issued to individuals to informing them to cease conducting activities suspected to be associated with money laundering

Police, financial analysts and cybercrime experts from around Australia worked with the AFP to crackdown on money mules.

Law enforcement agencies from 27 countries, financial institutions and industry partners worked together during the operation, which ran from 15 September to 30 November 2021.

EMMA7 brought together law enforcement agencies from 27 countries, financial institutions and industry partners to target money laundering activity.

AFP Acting Commander Cybercrime Ben Case said criminals would use a wide range of tactics to convince people to launder money, including romance and job scams.

"International students are a common target of money mule networks however this is a warning to everyone, if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is. If you're being promised a pay check for simply moving money between accounts, converting money to cryptocurrency and moving it to another wallet or an online romantic partner is asking you to transfer funds on their behalf, then it is more than likely a scam," Acting Commander Case said.

"The money these mules are processing is the proceeds of crime, or money stolen from hard-working Australians who may have fallen victim to a scam.

If you know you are moving funds to assist with money laundering, you should be aware that the AFP will continue to target you and your associates."

Victoria Police Detective Superintendent Cybercrime Division Jane Welsh said organised criminals sought out unknowing Australians to utilise their legitimate Australian bank accounts to move money from a comprised account out of the country quickly.

"By routing it through a legitimate account held in Australia, it helps to obfuscate the flow of money, making it difficult to track." Detective Superintendent Welsh said.

"Unfortunately, the reality is that people transferring these funds are money mules, and these scams are a cover for criminals' money laundering efforts. The funds that people are being asked to move are the proceeds of other criminal thefts, such as those facilitated by business email compromise, false invoices or confidence scams.

"Money mules, even unsuspecting ones, should understand that they are complicit in serious crimes, and will be targeted accordingly."

Taskforce DOLOS is a multiagency taskforce consisting of the AFP and all state and territory policing partners, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), the Australian financial sector and international law enforcement agencies to provide a cohesive and coordinated response to combat cyber-enabled fraud targeting Australian businesses.

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Read the AFP Annual Report 2020-21

Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation - visit website

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