An Interpol-led operation involving 14 countries across the world netted 75 individuals believed to be linked to a Nigerian cybercriminal group that stole millions from its victims, according to a statement released Friday.
Police spotted the lavish lifestyles and greed of many of the suspects and carried out 49 searches, seizing, among other, 12,000 SIM cards during the execution of Operation Jackal, which took place from September 26 to September 30.
Officers also seized various luxury assets, including a residential property, three cars and tens of thousands in cash.
The coordinated operation targeted Black Axe cells – one of Nigeria’s mightiest criminal groups – as well as others from West Africa. Apart from the 75 people arrested, police intercepted 1.2 million euro in several bank accounts.
In South Africa, police arrested two suspects who had swindled at least US$1.8 million from victims through online scams. Three alleged members of this cyber fraud ring were also arrested in Italy.
Black Axe and similar groups are allegedly behind the majority of the world’s cyber-enabled financial fraud as well as many other serious crimes, according to Interpol’s Financial Crime and Anti-Corruption Center.
Authorities say the group is becoming a “major security threat worldwide.”
The immense quantity of assets seized during the operation also provided new investigative leads into organized crime groups involved in financial cyber fraud.
“Illicit financial funds are the lifeblood of transnational organized crime, and we have witnessed how groups like Black Axe will channel money gained from online financial scams into other crime areas, such as drugs and human trafficking,” said Stephen Kavanagh, Interpol’s executive director of police services.
According to the United Nations, up to $2 trillion in illicit funds are laundered through the global financial system every year, and it is estimated that less than 1% of these funds are intercepted and recovered.
People are more likely to fall victim to fraud or cyber offenses above any other crime. Online fraudsters are not worried if their victims are going to lose their life savings. Thousands usually lose their money in various scams executed by using email, romance apps, buying and selling, and investments.