Law enforcement authorities from 31 countries, supported by Europol, Eurojust and the European Banking Federation (EBF), have stepped up their efforts to crack down on money mule schemes that rope in victims often unaware that the money they are sending is part of an elaborate money laundering scheme.
The fifth European Money Mule Action (EMMA 5) took place between September – November 2019, resulting in the identification of 3833 money mules alongside 386 money mule recruiters, of which 228 were arrested. 1025 criminal investigations were open, many of them are still ongoing.
More than 650 banks, 17 bank associations and other financial institutions helped to report 7520 fraudulent money mule transactions, preventing a total loss of €12.9 million.
This year, law enforcement, judicial and financial authorities from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Australia, Moldova, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States and Ukraine participated in this international swoop.
Europol and Eurojust organised various operational and coordination meetings in The Hague to discuss the unique approach of each Member State to tackle money muling in their respective country. During the three-month action, Europol supported the operations by assisting the national authorities with cross-checks against Europol’s databases and intelligence gathering for further analysis, while Eurojust contributed to the swift forwarding and facilitation of the execution of European Investigation Orders.
Money mules, unlike their drug-trade counterparts, are not shuffling illicit goods over a physical border. Instead, they take part – often unknowingly – in money laundering activities by receiving and transferring illegally obtained money between bank accounts and/or countries.