Global Crackdown ‘Operation HAECHI IV’: Arresting 3,500 Cybercriminals and Seizing $300 Million in Landmark International Law Enforcement Effort

Global Crackdown 'Operation HAECHI IV': Arresting 3,500 Cybercriminals and Seizing $300 Million in Landmark International Law Enforcement Effort

A global law enforcement initiative named ‘Operation HAECHI IV’ has culminated in the detention of approximately 3,500 individuals implicated in a range of lower-level cybercrimes, along with the confiscation of $300 million in illicit funds. The operation, orchestrated primarily by South Korean officials in collaboration with authorities from 34 nations, including the USA, UK, Japan, Hong Kong (China), and India, spanned from July to December 2023. This campaign focused on apprehending individuals involved in crimes such as voice phishing, romantic deceptions, online sexual extortion, investment scams, and money laundering related to unlawful online betting, along with email compromise schemes targeting businesses and e-commerce fraud.

Moreover, Interpol’s monetary analysis system, I-GRIP, pinpointed and immobilized 82,112 bank accounts across 34 countries, all associated with various cybercriminal and deceitful activities. Of the total seized assets, $199 million was in hard currency, with the remaining $101 million attributed to 367 digital/virtual assets, including NFTs (non-fungible tokens) linked to cybercriminal activities.

Interpol’s Stephen Kavanagh highlighted the significance of the operation, stating that the substantial amount of money recovered underscores the lucrative nature of transnational organized crime and its potential to undermine global security and economic stability.

One notable capture during this mission was of an online betting offender in Manila, pursued by Korean police for over two years. A concerning trend observed in the HAECHI arrests involves digital investment frauds and NFT investment schemes that abruptly cease operations, absconding with investor funds, and erasing their online presence.

An emerging tactic among fraudsters is the use of AI and deep fake technology to create realistic synthetic content or mimic the voices of victims’ acquaintances. UK authorities, as part of the HAECHI team, have disrupted numerous incidents where scammers exploited AI for impersonation scams, online sexual blackmail, and investment fraud.

While AI technology currently offers an advantage to cybercriminals, Interpol is constantly updating its strategies to keep pace with new trends and counter these threats effectively. Operation HAECHI IV marked a 260% increase in arrests compared to its predecessor, HAECHI III, conducted between June and November 2022, which resulted in 975 arrests and the freezing of $130 million.

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