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November 25, 2022

Interpol’s seizes over $130m in virtual assets in operation HAECHI III

The international police force closed a worldwide operation this week which covered over 1,600 cases.

By Claudia Glover

Interpol has seized $130m of virtual assets as part of an operation which concluded this week. Known as HAECHI III, it resolved 1,600 cases and saw the launch of a new anti-money laundering rapid response tool (ARRP) that enables countries to reclaim stolen money and digital assets.

Interpol closes worldwide investigation this week as it seizes $130m in virtual assets. (Photo by Tang Yan Song/Shutterstock)

Operation HAECHI III ran over a five-month period from June-November, targeting money and online currencies linked to cyber enabled financial crime and money laundering.

The results of Interpol’s Operation HAECHI III

The action resulted in the arrest of 975 suspects, resolving over 1,600 cases. Up to 2,800 virtual asset accounts and bank accounts linked to illicit funds were closed. Just under $130m in virtual assets were seized, Interpol says.

Throughout the campaign several investigations uncovered different, unforeseen criminal trends, such as impersonation scams, romance frauds, sextortion and investment frauds. Police saw a surge in fraudulent investment schemes committed through instant messaging apps. In one campaign, criminals had been impersonating Interpol officers to persuade their victims to transfer $159,000 through financial institutions, cryptocurrency exchanges and online gift cards.

HAECHI III was coordinated by Interpol’s Financial Crime and Anti-Corruption Centre (IFACC) which supports 30 countries via National Centre Bureaus (NCBs) at Interpol. Countries who participated in HAECHI III include the UK,  the US, Australia, India, and Singapore, along with 25 other countries in Asia, Europe and Africa. 

“As we look to the future, we recognize the importance for decisive and concerted law enforcement action across borders,” said Hyung Se Lee, head of NCB Seoul. “This year’s leg of Operation HAECHI III speaks volumes of IFCACC’s dedicated coordination and the strong commitment of participating countries, all of which foretell of new law enforcement victories ahead.”

The anti-money laundering rapid response tool helps police

After months of pilot testing, operation HAECHI III saw the use of a new anti-money laundering tool designed to help countries stem the flow of illicit virtual funds that fuel the cybercrime economy. ARRP enables countries to work together to submit and handle requests to restrain the movement of criminal proceeds.

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The tool appears to have been a success. NCBs in Manchester and Dublin used the ARRP together on an investigation that seized €1.2m lost to business email scams in Ireland. 

Since January 2022 the ARRP has helped countries within the operation recover more than $120m in criminal proceeds from cyber-enabled fraud

Interpol secretary general Jürgen Stock said: “The success of this operation is based on two key elements for law enforcement, follow the money and cooperation via INTERPOL. We have highlighted the need for greater efforts to deprive criminals of their illegal gains and this operation has seen member countries doing just that.”

Read more: Ransomware arrests mark progress, but the fight isn’t over yet

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