Blog: Interpol Concludes APAC Operation Targeting Online Financial Crime – Regulation Asia

The six-month operation led to 585 arrests, more than 1,600 bank account freezes, and the interception of USD 83 million in illicit funds.

Interpol has concluded a more than six-month operation which has led to the interception of USD 83 million in illicit funds transferred from victims to the perpetrators of cyber-enabled financial crime.

The operation, codenamed HAECHI-I, mobilised more than 40 specialised law enforcement officers across the Asia Pacific region, enabling them to coordinate intelligence collection and joint operations.

Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Korea, Laos, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam participated in Operation HAECHI-I.

The operation targeted five types of online financial crime: investment fraud, romance scams, money laundering associated with illegal online gambling, online sextortion and voice phishing.

More than 1,400 investigations were opened during HAECHI-I’s six-month operational phase (September 2020 – March 2021) – many of which remain ongoing.

So far, 892 cases were solved, 585 individuals were arrested, and more than 1,600 bank accounts around the world were frozen, Interpol said in a statement.

In one case, a Korean company was approached by what appeared to be one of their trading partners requesting payment of a series of invoices, however the bank details on the invoices had been fraudulently changed. The company transferred nearly USD 7 million to the fraudster and the money was swiftly routed to bank accounts in Indonesia and Hong Kong.

Korean law enforcement alerted Interpol’s financial crimes unit and related contact points, enabling “quick collaborative action” that led to the interception and freezing of half of the stolen funds while the investigation continues.

In another case, a criminal syndicate in Hong Kong, China coordinated a ‘ramp and dump’ scheme through social media, leaving investors with significant losses. Law enforcement was able to freeze the problematic trading accounts and recover the vast majority of victims’ funds.

Interpol is also sharing the ‘ramp and dump’ modus operandi with other countries that could be at risk. The information gained during operation HAECHI-I has additionally led to the publishing of nearly 100 Interpol notices and diffusions.

“The results of Operation HAECHI-I demonstrate that online financial crime is fundamentally global and that only through close international cooperation can we effectively combat these criminals,” said Ilana de Wild, Interpol’s Director of Organized and Emerging Crime.

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