The International Criminal Police Organisations (INTERPOL’s) Financial Crime and Anti-Corruption Centre (IFCACC) has launched a global awareness campaign among its member states including Zimbabwe, in order to highlight the massive use of money mules in facilitating the movement of criminal proceeds.
Money muling is a type of money laundering and money mules are people recruited by criminals, often unwittingly, to transfer funds on their behalf and launder their illicit profits.
They receive money from a third party in their bank account and transfer it to another one or takes it out in cash and gives it to someone else, obtaining a commission for it.
Even if money mules are not directly involved in the crimes that generate the money (cybercrime, payment and online fraud, drugs, human trafficking, etc.), they are accomplices, as they launder the proceeds of such crimes. Simply put, money mules help criminal syndicates to remain anonymous while moving funds around the world.
In May, as a result of operational and analytical support provided to its member countries, INTERPOL published a Purple Notice warning of the growing use of money mule ‘herders’, who regularly seek blanket authorizations to use the personal accounts of victims as their own.
The global awareness campaign hashtag, #YourAccountYourCrime, clearly reminds the general public that they are responsible for keeping their accounts safe and that there are consequences for moving money on behalf of a third party.
The two-week campaign (August 10 to 26, 2022) will run on social media.
The campaign will explain how to stay safe – and out of the criminal cycle – by exploring: how money muling works, how to avoid becoming a victim and the risks associated with money muling.
In most cases, money mules are recruited as part of wider scams in order to escape the audit trail, adding layers by moving the money further and further away from the original crime.
Last week, the suspected ringleader of an international romance scam network was returned to Japan from Ghana to face prosecution. He is alleged to have swindled 400 million yen (US$3 million) using fake female profiles on matchmaking apps.
As part of the IFCACC-supported investigation, police arrested a further 15 accomplices, many of whom were money mules.
INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services Mr Stephen Kavanagh said, “Criminals will go to great lengths to recruit money mules because they play an essential role in distancing themselves from authorities and escaping detection. Money mule schemes can be disguised as employment, romantic relationships or investments, or simply as helping out a friend.
“At the end of the day, however, moving money for someone else, especially across borders, is risky business. Money mules, whether complicit or not, help perpetuate the criminal cycle and could face prosecution.”
This campaign has been developed as part of INTERPOL’s Project TORAID, which aims to strengthen global safety and security by enhancing law enforcement capabilities to address a wide spectrum of financial crimes. It is funded by the Government of Japan.