European and American officials have arrested 20 people from numerous countries for belonging to an international ring called QQAAZZ that laundered millions of euros via malware schemes from cybercriminals, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
The investigation involved an international police operation called 2BaGoldMule, which involved agents from Spain, Italy, Bulgaria and Latvia who searched over 40 homes. It was led by Portuguese investigators and included 14 more European countries under the umbrella of Europol, according to the AP.
A good amount of the home searches took place in Latvia, the AP reported. Six arrests were made there, along with six more in Britain, four in Spain and one each in Portugal, Poland, the U.S. and Australia, according to Europol, as reported by the AP.
QQAAZZ allegedly laundered stolen funds from hundreds of cybercriminals, transferring them between hundreds of banks globally. The U.S. Department of Justice reported that the ring involved numerous individuals from countries including Russia, Latvia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Romania and Belgium, according to the AP.
“This operation has shown that through this cooperation we can collectively tackle the global nature of cybercrime,” said Carlos Cabreiro, director of Portugal’s National Unit for Fighting Cybercrime, according to the AP. “This is the only way forward.”
The United Nations reported that up to $2 trillion is laundered every year, which comes out to about 5 percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP). Cybercriminals go about the laundering via a varied array of tactics, PYMNTS reported, including simplistic ways like exchanging gift cards to more advanced ones like setting up fraudulent eCommerce websites.
In terms of anti-money laundering measures, artificial intelligence (AI) is quickly becoming adopted, particularly by banks in Asia. A survey of Hong Kong banks found that 83 percent of them believe AI could help them in that area, although it’s been difficult to modify the legacy systems to adopt the practice in a widespread manner.