Law enforcement officials representing 16 countries from around the world have taken action against a reportedly cross-border cryptocurrency money laundering enterprise. On Oct 15 2020, Europol declared the success of an international law enforcemnt operation stretching across 16 countries; 20 individuals suspected of working for the QQAAZZ criminal network were arrested.
Money Laundering Since 2016
According to estimations, the organization QQAAZZ has laundered, or attempted to launder, tens of millions of euros for the world’s top-tier cybercriminals since 2016. With operators mainly stemming from Latvia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Belgium, the QQAAZZ network kept hundreds of corporate and personal bank accounts at financial institutions throughout the world to receive stolen funds from cybercriminals.
The money was later transferred to other QQAAZZ-controlled bank accounts, and sometimes converted to cryptocurrency so as to cover up the roots of the funds. QQAAZZ operated these bank accounts through shell companies created by members who used mostly Polish and Bulgarian identification documents for registration.
Law enforcement officers searched around 40 houses across the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Latvia, and Bulgaria as part of “Operation 2BaGoldMule,”; arrests were later made in countries including the U.S, the U.K, Portugal, Spain, Latvia, Poland and Australia. In Bulgaria, some Bitcoin mining equipment was confiscated as well.
The transnational operation was carried out by the Portuguese Judicial Police in association with the United States Attorney Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania and the FBI’s Pittsburgh Field Office, the Spanish National Police, the regional Catalan police, and law enforcement representatives from the United Kingdom, Latvia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Czech Republic, Australia, Sweden, Austria and Belgium; the collaboration was largely conducted by Europol.
In other news, a 40-year-old man was arrested in New Zealand- also on October 15. He was allegedly using cryptocurrency to launder more than $2 million for criminals. The man laundered funds by purchasing quite a few luxury vehicles as well – including a Lamborghini and a Mercedes G63.