General News

Operation ​​Haechi III: Interpol Seize Over $130m in Virtual Assets. 

Operation Haechi III Interpol Seize Over 130m in Virtual Assets.
Rate our article

Interpol has been busy bees over the last six months as they’ve worked to recoup a total of $129,975,440 in virtual assets, and they’ve arrested 975 individuals. In codename “Operation Haechi-III,” Interpol investigators resolved more than 1,600 cases.

  • 130 million intercepted
  • 975 arrests
  • 2,800 accounts blocked
  • 30 countries

What is Operation Haechi III?

Over the last few years, companies such as the IRS Cyber Crimes Unit, Russian authorities, and Interpol have worked together to build new tracking systems and anti-fraud measures. This has proven effective, as they’ve taken down a few dozen darknet markets and seized over $7 billion in the last 5 years. 

They’ve managed to defeat the darknet giants through multiple operations. Such is the case with Operation Haechi-III, one of Interpol’s most effective operations to date. But as the name suggests, this isn’t the first operation of its kind. In 2020 (Haechi-I), Interpol recouped about $83 million, and in 2021 (Haechi-II), they seized over $27 million. Making Operation Haechi-III the most successful of the three. 

According to a statement by Interpol, this will be the last of the Haechi series. 

The project to tackle cyber-enabled financial crime started on June 28, 2022. A team worked together to fight a plethora of cybercrime, including:

  • targeting voice phishing
  • romance scams
  • Sextortion
  • Investment fraud
  • Crypto gambling as a form of money laundering.

The investigations were made across a total of 30 different countries, where almost 2,800 bank and virtual asset accounts linked to the illicit proceeds of online financial crime were blocked. Along with the 975 arrests, the operation also helped Interpol identify at least 16 of the latest online trends for cybercrime.

Although easily one of the most successful Interpol operations to date, it’s also proven how much more cybercrimes has picked up in the last few years as more people make their way to the internet. Sadly, the Interpol team used this as an excuse for why encrypted messages are a bad thing.

“Investigators also reported a surge in fraudulent investment schemes committed through the use of instant messaging apps where encrypted information is exchanged, promoting the use of cryptocurrency wallets for payment.” And to that, we say… no! Let’s keep the government out of our personal conversations thanks. 

As if it wasn’t obvious enough prior to this, Interpol said they just needed to “follow the money.”

The success of this operation is based on two key elements for law enforcement, follow the money and cooperation via Interpol. We have highlighted the need for greater efforts to deprive criminals of their illegal gains and this operation has seen member countries doing just that.

Jürgen Stock, Interpol Secretary General

Operation Haechi-III officially ended on November 23rd, almost six months after it started. 

An Interesting Case For Interpol

Out of all the investigations that the Interpol officers went through, two cases stood out. The Red Notice fugitives and Interpol impersonators!

Red Notice Fugitives

image 2 2

Two “Red Notice” fugitives (art thieves) were arrested in Greece and Italy after embezzling more than £28 million. A Polish man and a German were running a Ponzi scheme that over 2,000 Koreans fell victim to. The Ponzi scheme was a standard investment fund scheme that took place between 2016 and 2020, and the victims simply used word of mouth and recruitment methods to grow the scheme. 

The scheme involved buying advertisement packs and reselling them at a profit to new users via YouTube and Facebook. It *only* took five years and £28 million for Interpol to find the two fugitives.

Is That Interpol I Hear?

In an ironic turn of events, a group of Interpol impersonators persuaded victims to transfer at least $2.8 million. The victims transferred funds through multiple financial institutions, crypto exchanges, and the good old gift card method. 

The Indian Gang was running a call center in New Delhi, India. The gang would make private calls to people across multiple countries and impersonate themselves as Interpol or Federal Police officers. They would then use any data they could find on the victims to extort money out of them. 

In some cases, they’d explain that their identities had been stolen and that there were crimes now linked to them. The gang continued to intimidate and threaten victims to transfer funds into different accounts; otherwise, they’d be arrested, or the government would “freeze their assets.” They’d also claim that the longer it took to send the money, the more the victim would be fined. 

By way of threatening the victims, the accused allegedly compelled the victims to transfer money to the given bank accounts and in crypto wallets, gift card codes or voucher codes, in order to clear themselves from the alleged coercive action. The amounts collected from the victims through cheating by the accused were transferred in the form of Bitcoin (a crypto-currency) in the crypto-accounts of the accused maintained in the e-wallets of various Crypto currency exchanges.

An interview with Interpol Officers

Interpol Has New Toys

During Operation Haechi-III, Interpol worked to create new tools for fighting against cyber criminals. The new tool is known as the Anti-Money Laundering Rapid Response Protocol (ARRP) and allows for speedier procedures in stopping criminal activity. The tool even allows Interpol to reverse transactions before they’re completed. 

With the new tool, Interpol claims that “the vast majority of funds can be completely recovered” if reported in time. With the ARRP tool in the hands of Interpol, they should be able to handle highly complex cybercrimes in the form of fiat currencies and even Gift Cards. But it will be much harder to solve crypto-related crimes. This is not so much a problem as most cybercrimes are still taking place among more technologically impaired people.