How Europol tracked 5 cyber criminals using cryptocurrency for money laundering

In an operation coordinated by Europol, the Budapest Metropolitan Police managed to dismantle a cyber criminal group related to multiple money laundering and falsification of administrative documents operations.

According to the complaint, this group established multiple companies allegedly engaged in legitimate activities, in addition to buying other companies with the help of strawmen. The defendants opened bank accounts in the name of these companies in order to facilitate their money laundering operations, receiving money from other countries and transferring it to other accounts afterwards, often using cryptocurrency transactions.

A total of five individuals were arrested during the police raid, in addition to confiscating multiple electronic devices, mobile phones, SIM cards, weapons, jewelry and cash from various countries.  

Authorities estimate that cybercriminals would have helped launder up to EUR 44 million, in addition to hiding the trace of EUR 5 million more. This operation was active from September 2020 until its dismantling at the end of May.

Europol identified 44 individuals allegedly involved in this operation, with 10 in charge of planning and operation, and 34 people acting as front men. These people would simply have shared their personal information in exchange for minimal financial compensation and without knowing that their data would be used in complex fraudulent operations.

In addition to having some of its agents and facilitating the exchange of information, the Europol Financial Investigation Team also collaborated in the operation, providing specialized analytical support and with the experience gained in other similar operations.

In 2020, Europol set up the European Financial and Economic Crime Centre (EFECC) to improve collaboration between different national law enforcement agencies, as well as strengthen their capacity to assist these agencies in their fight against major online financial crimes.

Feel free to access the International Institute of Cyber Security (IICS) websites to learn more about information security risks, malware variants, vulnerabilities, and information technologies.