Interpol arrests Black Ax fraud suspects • The Register

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Interpol has arrested 75 suspected members of the West African crime syndicate Black Ax and intercepted more than $1 million from various bank accounts in a massive multinational operation to thwart the group’s cyber-fraud efforts that fund its operations criminals.

According to the international police agency, Operation Jackal spanned 14 countries across four continents targeting Black Ax and related criminal groups in the region. Law enforcement officials raided 49 properties and seized what Interpol called an “tremendous amount of assets” – including 12,000 SIM cards – which resulted in investigative leads that potentially identified 70 other suspects.

Cops also seized a wide range of luxury items and residences along with three cars and tens of thousands of dollars in cash.

“Illicit financial funds are the lifeblood of transnational organized crime, and we have seen how groups like Black Ax will funnel money made from online financial scams into other criminal areas, such as drug trafficking and crime. human trafficking,” said Stephen Kavanagh, executive director of police. Interpol services, said in a recent statement. “These groups demand a global response.”

The agency said Black Ax and other groups are responsible for most cyber financial scams around the world.

Black Ax took root in Nigeria in 1977 and over the decades its members have been accused of a myriad of crimes including murder. The group, which has a reputation as a cult, has been targeted by US law enforcement.

In October 2021, the United States Attorney General’s Office in New Jersey accused eight members of the group – also known as the Neo-Black Movement of Africa – in connection with internet scams following an investigation by the Secret Service and FBI. The South African members of the group have been accused of running romance scams and fee advance schemes defrauding investors between 2011 and 2021.

Many schemes involved stories that echo classic Nigerian email scams. They used social media, online dating sites and VoIP phone numbers to find victims in the United States, according to the Secret Service.

During Operation Jackal, Interpol set up two operational support teams in South Africa and Ireland to manage multiple teams of officers in the field. Additionally, the Carabinieri – Italy’s state police – arrested three suspected Black Ax members in Campobasso as part of Operation Jackal, Interpol said.

Interpol gave a hint about the operation at the end of September when it tweeted the arrest of two men in South Africa for allegedly stealing $1.8 million through online scams.

Black Ax also attempted to steal around $1 million through welfare fraud in Ireland in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Interpol.

In addition, Interpol, as part of its operations, has used its Anti-Money Laundering Rapid Response Protocol (ARRP), a new global stop-payment tool that authorities in various countries can use to track, intercept and freezing money stolen during illegal activities. It is being used in a pilot program as part of Interpol’s largest global financial crime task force.

Rory Corcoran, director of Interpol’s Financial Crime and Anti-Corruption Center (IFCACC), said in a statement that the ARRP is important in cases “where speed and international cooperation are crucial to intercepting illicit funds before ‘they don’t disappear into the pockets of overseas financial mules.’

Corcoran added that IFCACC is using cyber and finance experts to cut off the flow of stolen money. Illicit financial flows have become a concern of international law enforcement agencies and have been the subject of an investigation organized by Interpol round table with the international organization Financial Action Task Force last month in Singapore. A joint initiative addressing the issue has been launched by the two organisations.

Among the countries participating in Operation Jackal were the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Nigeria, United Arab Emirates and South Africa. ®

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