Supporting People who Speak Out

EU Law Enforcement Hunts Down Money Laundering Mules

A combined effort by Eurojust, Europol and the European Banking federation to go after carriers of dirty money meant for laundering – whether unwittingly or not – led to 168 arrests, including so-called “money mules” and organizers during a sweep across 20 countries.

Officials from the agencies and European Money Mule Action (EMMA) said they had conducted the raids over three months that ended in November that identified 1,504 people who had taken part in helping criminals move money to be laundered to prevent detection.

Judicial and law enforcement agencies were coordinated from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Australia, Moldova, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the USA.

Officials said that 837 criminal investigations were opened and probes were ongoing of more than 300 banks with money-laundering scandals having already ensnared 90 percent of the European Union’s biggest financial institutions.

Twenty bank associations were also involved in a reported 26,376 fraudulent money mule transactions, preventing a total loss of 36.1 million euros ($41.01 million) and officials said they received cooperation from banks.

Money mules are people who often don’t know they’ve been recruited by criminal organizations as money laundering agents, tricked by the promise of easy money, mules transfer stolen funds between accounts, often in different States, on behalf of others, and are usually offered a share of the funds that pass through their own accounts.

Criminals have a pool of people who are often desperate because of financial distress and willing to take a chance what they’re doing isn’t unlawful or that they will be caught and gangs are increasingly going after college students to get access to their bank accounts, officials said.

Social media is also being used to find new sources to transfer money, through the use of ads for fake jobs or get-rich-quick schemes some people believe and just can’t resist.

It takes just a click on a computer to transfer money between accounts but that involves letting criminals use a person’s bank account which could result in prosecution and long jail sentences for those who are caught.