(Last Updated On: December 24, 2023)

INTERPOL Operation HAECHI IV – Expanded Details

Authors:
•  SCARS Editorial Team – Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.
•  INTERPOL

USD $300 Million Seized And 3,500 Suspects Arrested In International Financial Crime Operation HAECHI IV

Interpol Operation HAECHI IV was a global operation targeting cyber-enabled financial scams, running from July to December 2023.

Operation HAECHI IV Focus On Specific Scams

  • Voice phishing: Scammers posing as legitimate institutions to trick victims into revealing personal information or making fraudulent transfers.
  • Romance scams: Building online relationships to gain trust and manipulate victims into sending money.
  • Online sextortion: Threatening to release compromising material unless victims provide money or other favors.
  • Investment fraud: Promising unrealistic returns to lure victims into investing in fake schemes.
  • Money laundering associated with illegal online gambling: Using online gambling platforms to funnel and hide illegally obtained funds.
  • Business email compromise (BEC) fraud: Impersonating legitimate businesses to trick employees into making unauthorized payments.
  • E-commerce fraud: Deceptive online marketplaces or transactions to defraud buyers or sellers.

Operation HAECHI IV Results

  • 350 million euros and 273 million USD: Assets seized across 34 countries.
  • 3,500 suspects arrested: Including scam operators and money launderers.
  • Disruption of major illegal networks: Including the dismantling of an illegal gambling network.
  • Improved international cooperation: Sharing information and coordinating efforts between law enforcement agencies.

Operation HAECHI IV Challenges

  • Global nature of scams: Coordinating investigations and prosecutions across different jurisdictions can be complex.
  • Technological advancements: Scammers utilize ever-evolving methods, requiring law enforcement to adapt constantly.
  • Victim awareness: Many victims go unreported, hindering investigations and prevention efforts.

Operation HAECHI IV Significance

  • Operation HAECHI IV marks a significant success in combating cyber-enabled financial crime.
  • It demonstrates the importance of international cooperation in tackling these global threats.
  • It raises awareness about various online scams and encourages victims to report them.

Operation HAECHI IV emphasizes the key role of INTERPOL in enabling police worldwide to address the growing complexity of cyber-enabled scams

Operation HAECHI IV Arrests

Arrests were made in several countries, including:

  • South Korea: This was the lead country for the operation, and Filipino and Korean authorities collaborated in capturing a notorious online gambling criminal in Manila.
  • United States: US law enforcement participated in the operation, targeting various scam networks operating within the country.
  • United Kingdom: UK authorities collaborated with Interpol on investigations and arrests related to online financial crimes.
  • Japan: Japanese law enforcement played a role in cracking down on cybercrime within their jurisdiction.
  • Hong Kong (China): The operation extended to Hong Kong, with local authorities taking action against scam rings operating in the region.
  • India: Indian authorities contributed to dismantling illicit online financial activities originating from within the country.

34 Countries where INTERPOL confirmed arrests occurred during Operation HAECHI IV:

  1. Argentina
  2. Australia
  3. Brunei
  4. Cambodia
  5. Cayman Islands
  6. Ghana
  7. Hong Kong (China)
  8. India
  9. Indonesia
  10. Ireland
  11. Japan
  12. Kyrgyzstan
  13. Laos
  14. Liechtenstein
  15. Malaysia
  16. Maldives
  17. Mauritius
  18. Nigeria
  19. Pakistan
  20. Philippines
  21. Poland
  22. Korea (South)
  23. Romania
  24. Seychelles
  25. Singapore
  26. Slovenia
  27. South Africa
  28. Spain
  29. Sweden
  30. Thailand
  31. United Arab Emirates
  32. United Kingdom
  33. United States
  34. Vietnam

The success of Operation HAECHI IV in apprehending suspects across such a diverse range of nations highlights the growing global collaboration in tackling cross-border cybercrime. This level of cooperation is crucial in effectively combating the complex and evolving nature of online scams.

Interpol Operation HAECHI IV

Interpol Operation HAECHI IV

According to INTERPOL

LYON, FRANCE – A transcontinental police operation against online financial crime has concluded with almost 3,500 arrests and seizures of USD 300 million (approx. EUR 273 million) worth of assets across 34 countries.

The six-month Operation HAECHI IV (July-December 2023) targeted seven types of cyber-enabled scams: voice phishing, romance scams, online sextortion, investment fraud, money laundering associated with illegal online gambling, business email compromise fraud, and e-commerce fraud.

Investigators worked together to detect online fraud and freeze associated bank and virtual asset service provider (VASP) accounts using INTERPOL’s Global Rapid Intervention of Payments (I-GRIP), a stop-payment mechanism that helps countries work together to block criminal proceeds.

Cooperation between Filipino and Korean authorities led to the arrest in Manila of a high-profile online gambling criminal after a two-year manhunt by Korea’s National Police Agency.

Authorities blocked 82,112 suspicious bank accounts, seizing a combined USD 199 million in hard currency and USD 101 million in virtual assets.

“The seizure of USD 300 million represents a staggering sum and clearly illustrates the incentive behind today’s explosive growth of transnational organized crime. This represents the savings and hard-earned cash of victims. This vast accumulation of unlawful wealth is a serious threat to global security and weakens the economic stability of nations worldwide.” said Stephen Kavanagh, INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services

“HAECHI IV’s 200 per cent surge in arrests shows the persistent challenge of cyber-enabled crime, reminding us to stay alert and keep refining our tactics against online fraud, which is why INTERPOL operations like this are so important. Thank you to all concerned, especially colleagues from the Philippines and Korea.”

Investment fraud, business email compromise, and e-commerce fraud accounted for 75 percent of cases investigated in HAECHI IV.

Working with a number of VASPs, INTERPOL helped frontline officers identify 367 virtual asset accounts linked to transnational organized crime.  Police in member countries froze the assets and investigations are ongoing.

INTERPOL’s Head of National Central Bureau in Korea, Kim Dong Kwon, said: “It is remarkable that global efforts to stay ahead of the latest criminal trends have resulted in a substantial growth in operational outcomes.

“Despite criminals’ endeavors to gain illicit advantages through contemporary trends, they will eventually be apprehended and face due punishment. To accomplish this, Project HAECHI will consistently evolve and expand its scope.”

Two Purple Notices were published during Operation HAECHI IV warning countries about emerging digital investment fraud practices.

One alerted INTERPOL member countries to a new scam detected in Korea involving the sale of Non-Fungible Tokens with promises of huge returns, which turned out to be a “rug pull”, a growing scam in the crypto industry where developers abruptly abandon a project and investors lose their money.

The second purple notice warned about the use of AI and deep fake technology to lend credibility to scams by enabling criminals to hide their identities and to pretend to be family member, friends or love interests.

The UK leg of the operation reported several cases where AI-generated synthetic content was used to deceive, defraud, harass, and extort victims, particularly through impersonation scams, online sexual blackmail, and investment fraud. Cases also involved the impersonation of people known to the victims through voice cloning technology.

HAECHI operations are supported financially by Korea.

HAECHI IV Participating Countries

Argentina, Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, Cayman Islands, Ghana, Hong Kong (China), India, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Korea, Romania, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Viet Nam.

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