Police Arrest 1000 Suspected Money Mules

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Global law enforcers have arrested just over 1000 individuals suspected of money laundering, and identified thousands more, in a new operation designed to target the vast money laundering economy.

Europol’s European Money Mule Action (EMMA 9) operation also included the participation of police from Colombia, Singapore and Australia. It claimed to have resulted in the identification of 10,759 money mules and the arrest of a further 1013, as well as the identification of 474 money mule recruiters.

However, Europol warned that criminal networks continue to find new ways to recruit mules to help launder money, which is often obtained through online scams, such as investment fraud, business email compromise (BEC), bogus holiday rental listings, phishing, messenger app fraud and helpdesk fraud.

These include:

  • Exploiting migrants fleeing war zones such as Ukraine, by forcing them to open bank accounts to be used for money laundering
  • Impersonating bank officials and persuading the elderly to open new bank accounts
  • Using AI to create fake identities in order to bypass Know Your Customer checks during online account creation
  • Handing young people gift cards to purchase items online, which they must hand over to the criminals for resale on e-commerce marketplaces in return for a percentage of the proceeds

Read more on money laundering: NatWest Pleads Guilty in £400m Money Laundering Case

Europol claimed to have prevented nearly €32m ($35m) in losses thanks to its EMMA9 operation. However, this is just a drop in the ocean compared to the size of the money laundering economy.

Director general of the UK National Crime Agency (NCA), Graeme Biggar, told an audience at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) yesterday that it estimates at least £100bn ($126bn) is laundered through the UK or UK corporate structures alone each year.

The UN believes global money laundering could amount to trillions annually, or 2-5% of global GDP.

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