International crackdown on financial crime networks in West Africa

LYON (France) – The arrest of two suspected cybercriminals in South Africa, which grabbed headlines earlier this month, is the result of a worldwide police operation coordinated by INTERPOL.

This joint action called “Operation Jackal” mobilized 14 countries on four continents in a targeted intervention against the Black Ax group and other West African criminal organizations associated with it.

This is the first time that INTERPOL has orchestrated a global operation specifically targeting Black Axe, which is becoming a major threat to international security.

Indeed, this organization and several similar groups are responsible for the majority of financial cyber fraud worldwide and many other acts of serious crime, according to evidence analyzed by the INTERPOL Center for Combating Financial Crime and Corruption (IFCACC) and national law enforcement agencies.

In South Africa alone, the two arrested suspects were wanted for online fraud worth $1.8 million.

The backbone of organized crime

During a coordinated “week of action” (September 26-30), several police departments around the world launched operations against people associated with the Black Ax group, arresting people suspected of criminal activity or serving as financial mules. , search, closure of premises and seizure of assets in connection with ongoing cases.

Two INTERPOL operational support teams have also been deployed, one to South Africa and the other to Ireland, to coordinate international law enforcement teams on the ground. In Italy, the carabinieri made three arrests in Campobasso as part of the operation.

In total, Operation Jackal produced the following results:

  • EUR 1.2 million intercepted in bank accounts;
  • 75 arrests;
  • 49 searches;
  • 7 purple INTERPOL notices detailing the modus operandi used by criminals;
  • 6 INTERPOL Red notices for internationally wanted refugees.

“Illicit financial means are the lifeblood of transnational organized crime and we have seen how groups like Black Ax can funnel the money from their online financial fraud into other areas of crime, such as drug trafficking and human trafficking. The fight against these groups requires an international response,” said Stephen Kavanagh, INTERPOL’s executive director of police services.

A lavish lifestyle

The significant amount of seized assets, including 12,000 SIM cards, provided new investigative leads for law enforcement, resulting in 13 analysis reports and allowing police to identify more than 70 additional suspects.

At the scene of the arrests, the greed of most of the alleged criminals and their lavish lifestyles, probably financed by stealing their savings from Internet users and other criminal activities, were blatantly displayed. Various luxury items were seized, including apartment buildings, three cars and tens of thousands of dollars in cash.

During the operation, INTERPOL also rolled out its new global payment blocking mechanism, the Anti-Money Laundering Rapid Response Protocol (ARRP), which is currently in its pilot phase. Implemented as part of INTERPOL’s Global Financial Crimes Task Force, the ARRP enables member states to quickly intercept illicit proceeds of crime.

“The ARRP is truly a game-changer in the fight against global financial crime, where speed and international cooperation are key to intercepting illicit funds before they disappear into the pockets of mules who smuggle them abroad,” explained Rory Corcoran, Director of IFCACC . “INTERPOL’s Global Financial Crimes Task Force has been remarkably effective in disrupting illicit financial flows through the cooperation of cyber and financial sector specialists, who together have successfully tracked the money and blocked these circuits.”

The arrest of two suspected cybercriminals in South Africa, which grabbed headlines earlier this month, is the result of a global police operation coordinated by INTERPOL.

“Fraud is transnational, it knows no borders,” said Michael Cryan, Detective Inspector for Ireland’s Garda National Economic Crime Bureau, which took part in Operation Jackal.

Operation Jackal mobilized 14 countries on four continents in a targeted intervention against the Black Ax group and other West African criminal organizations associated with it.

In South Africa alone, the two arrested suspects were wanted for online fraud worth $1.8 million.

Various luxury items were seized, including an apartment building, three cars and tens of thousands of dollars in cash.

Two INTERPOL operational support teams were also deployed to South Africa and Ireland.

49 searches were conducted during this global operation.

In South Africa alone, the two arrested suspects were wanted for online fraud worth $1.8 million.

The significant amount of assets seized, including 12,000 SIM cards, provided new investigative leads for law enforcement.

In Italy, the carabinieri made three arrests in Campobasso as part of the operation.

In Italy, the carabinieri made three arrests in Campobasso as part of the operation.

Greed and lavish lifestyles of most of the alleged criminals were openly displayed.

No limits

Operation Jackal follows the first-ever round table meeting that brought together INTERPOL and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in Singapore last month. On this occasion, the two organizations launched a joint initiative aimed at combating illicit financial flows.

According to the UN, up to $2 trillion in illicit funds are laundered through the global financial system each year, and less than 1% of these funds are intercepted and recovered.

“Fraud is transnational, it knows no borders,” said Michael Cryan, Detective Inspector for Ireland’s Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB), who took part in the jackal operation. “This crackdown is a great example of what can be achieved when international police forces work together by sharing intelligence, information and evidence at their disposal. Working together, with the support of INTERPOL, they can seriously compromise the activities of these organized gangs and thereby making cyberspace safer for everyone. ยป

Operation Jackal was carried out as part of the CEFIN project. Funded by the Republic of Korea, this project targets financial crimes committed via the Internet.

Here is the complete list of countries that participated in Operation Jackal: South Africa, Germany, Argentina, Australia, Ivory Coast, United Arab Emirates, Spain, USA, France, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Nigeria and Kingdom -United.

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