A recent report from UK fraud prevention service Cifas revealed that young Britons are increasingly being persuaded to act as money mules for hackers and other criminals. The study highlighted a 27% rise in the number of 14 to 24-year-olds who allowed their bank accounts to be used to launder the proceeds of criminal activity last year. Throughout 2017, Cifas noted an 11% increase in the number of bank accounts that may have been used for money mule activities, suggesting that criminals are ramping up their efforts to recruit the cash-strapped to launder their ill-gotten gains. Worryingly, the number of people aged under 21 who let their bank accounts be used in this way rose by 36% in the UK last year. While there was an increase in cases of money muling across all age groups in Britain in 2017, it appears as though younger people have become a prime target for those who have dirty money to clean.
One of the biggest problems for criminals who amass large amounts of cash through their illicit activities is how to make that money appear as though it has come from a legitimate source. Over recent years, a growing number of individuals and groups with funds to launder have used the internet to recruit mules who are happy to have cash paid into their bank accounts before forwarding it on. After receiving dirty money, mules are typically either instructed to transfer it overseas, or withdraw cash and use a service such as Western Union to wire it out of the country they live in. For their trouble, they are offered a percentage of the sum they process, or a one-off fee. In some cases, mules can be offered thousands of dollars for what amounts to fewer than 30 minutes “work”.
While this can seem like an easy way to make some quick cash, the majority of mules are unaware of the punishment they could face if they are caught. On top of this, it is not uncommon for criminals to refuse to pay money to mules once they have done what is asked of them. Despite this, the Cifas data suggests the methods criminals are using to recruit money mules are working, and that warnings from law enforcement authorities about what could happen to anybody caught laundering the proceeds of crime are simply not being heard.
Criminals looking to recruit money mules often place advertisements on legitimate employment sites and classified listings services. Their ads are often worded in a way that disguises the true nature of the role they want potential mules to fulfil, and are typically intended to appeal to the economically disenfranchised, such as immigrants, the unemployed and students. A focus on the latter group is likely a key driver behind the increase in UK money mule cases involving young people. Messaging apps such as WhatsApp and social media platforms including Facebook are also used to lure young people in.
Unfortunately for those who are tempted to act as mules without knowing the gravity of the offence they might be committing, ignorance will typically not be accepted as an excuse if they are caught by the police. The likelihood of money laundering offences committed by mules being detected is high, not only on account of the fact that banks are constantly strengthening their procedures and systems to better detect suspicious activity, but also because law enforcement authorities routinely target organised criminals who seek out mules to launder their cash.
In November last year, Europol and the European Banking Federation (EBF) teamed up with police forces in 26 countries to crack down on criminal organisations that use money mules and money mules themselves. The operation resulted in 159 arrests, and the identification 766 money mules and 59 money mule organisers operating in various countries across the globe. In total, law enforcement agencies that took part in the crackdown detected illicit money transfers worth $36 million. Commenting on the success of the operation in a joint statement, Europol, Eurojust and the EBF said they would launch similar initiatives in the future as part of their efforts to fight money laundering and other financial crimes. The figures released by Cifas earlier this month suggest that these types of operations are having little impact on money mule organisers or the individuals who are willing to allow their bank accounts to be used in this way.
The disparity between the number of organisers and mules detected during the Europol-backed crackdown goes some way to explaining why. While criminals looking for mules to wash their dirty money know how to avoid being detected by police, those desperate enough to take up their offers are typically oblivious to the seriousness of what they are being asked to do. As such, cases of money muling are likely to continue to rise, resulting in individuals who would never dream of getting involved in this type of illegal activity facing the possibility of lengthy jail terms, and acquiring criminal records that could seriously alter the course of the rest of their lives.
Bosnian migrant jailed for 7 years for selling firearms to Swedish neo-Nazis and terrorists
A Bosnian national has been jailed for more than seven years by a US court in Washington state after being convicted of sending gun parts to neo-Nazis in Sweden.
Hany Veletanlic, a 36-year-old Bosnian citizen who had been living legally in the US, was handed a jail sentence of 85 months after he was found guilty of four offences related to the illegal possession and trafficking of firearms.
The investigation that led to the arrest and ultimate conviction of Veletanlic began when Swedish law enforcement agents seized a Glock firearm from a property in the municipality of Fagersta.
Although the gun’s serial number had been filed off, Glock was able to establish that it had been purchased by a buyer in Seattle through a code printed on one its parts.
When contacted by US police, the buyer of the weapon said he had sold it privately to Veletanlic, who then contacted investigators when he heard enquiries were being made about the gun.
During a subsequent arrest, police discovered that the Bosnian national was in possession of a stolen Ruger pistol with its serial number removed.
The Bosnian admitted he sold firearms on eBay and via direct sales, and confessed to shipping 20 different gun consignments to two different customer groups in Sweden, as well as additional weapon packages to buyers in France, Russia and Brazil.
Veletanlic falsely labelled his illicit shipments as bicycle parts and sent them to customers using fake names and return addresses.
Giving evidence during his trial, police from Sweden said some of the buyers of Veletanlic’s firearms were linked to neo-Nazi and terrorist activity.
Prosecutors said Veletanlic had repeatedly lied to law enforcement officers while they were investigating his weapons trafficking conspiracy, and that he was involved in a plot to have a witness in the case shot from behind bars.
Jailing Veletanlic, US District Judge James Robart said he had been involved in the running of an illegal “lucrative business” and taken “quite sophisticated steps” in order to cover his tracks.
US Attorney Brian Moran commented: “This defendant repeatedly lied to law enforcement, violated judges orders, and even schemed to harm a witness against him from the Federal Detention Centre.
“Even behind bars he tried to transfer guns in his control to another violent group. Such disregard for the rule of law cannot be tolerated.”
Customs workers in US state of Minnesota find bogus bank bills with face value of $900,000 in Chinese rail container
US customs workers in Minnesota have discovered counterfeit bank notes with a face value of $900,000 in a container that is said to have originated from China.
Agents from US Customs & Border Protection (CBP) referred the shipment for further inspection after conducting an initial search of rail freight passing through the International Falls Port of Entry on the US/Canada border.
During a more detailed inspection of the container, border control officers found a total of 45 cartons, each of which contained fake $1 bills.
In total, the shipment of fake currency had a face value of $900,000.
After discovering the notes, CBP officers called in experts from the US Secret Service, who were able to confirm the currency was indeed fake.
Commenting on the discovery of the bogus bills, Pembina Area Port Director Jason Schmelz said in a statement: “CBP officers strive every day to protect the United States from a variety of threats.
“Those threats don’t always come in the form of terrorists or narcotics, but also in the form of counterfeit currency and other goods that have the potential to harm the economy of the United States.
“Thanks to the dedication of our officers and our partnership with the Secret Service, we were able to keep this currency from entering into circulation.”
The CBP has said preventing the flow of illicit goods and counterfeit currency into the US is one of its top priorities, not least on account of the damage such items can do to the US economy.
Last week, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published its first report on combatting counterfeit and pirated goods in America after US President Donald Trump issued a Memorandum on Combatting Trafficking in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods in April of last year.
The report found that “the flood of counterfeit and pirated goods” now being sold to US consumers through online third-party marketplaces is threatening both public health and safety as well as national security.
“The lack of effective methods for addressing counterfeit goods stifles American innovation and erodes the competitiveness of US manufacturers and workers,” the study concluded.
“Despite increased efforts of both the US government and private sector stakeholders, the trafficking of counterfeit and pirated goods continues to worsen, in both the volume and the array of products being trafficked.”
Pair of drug traffickers handed 33 years behind bars for attempting to smuggle cocaine worth £60 million into UK
Two men who were caught attempting to smuggle cocaine worth an estimated £60 million ($78.33 million) into the UK after shipping it from on a yacht from South America have been jailed for a total of 33 years.
Officers from the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA), which is often referred to as Britain’s equivalent of the FBI, identified that the vessel on which Scott Kilgour and Gary Swift were travelling was carrying a large cocaine shipment in August last year.
After working in close cooperation with their colleagues in Spain, NCA investigators boarded the boat off the coast of Wales and arrested Swift, 53, and Kilgour, 41, who were both from Liverpool.
After bringing the boat to shore, specialist officers conducted a forensic search of the vessel, finding 751lgs of cocaine.
Tests later proved that the drugs were 83% pure, giving the haul a wholesale value of some £24 million and a potential street value of £60 million once mixed with cutting agents.
Both men pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import cocaine at Swansea Crown Court in September of last year.
Today, Swift was handed a 19-and-a-half-year jail term, while Kilgour was sentenced to 13-and-a-half years.
The court was told that the men set off from the Canary Islands to collect the huge cocaine shipment from Suriname on the north-east coast of South America in June 2019, and were intercepted on 27 August after police put their vessel under surveillance.
When law enforcement officers boarded the boat, Swift told them: “I just want to say that I am guilty. I have got something substantial on the boat and they will find it.”
Speaking after sentencing, Jayne Lloyd, NCA Regional Head of Investigations, commented: “Today’s result shows what will happen if you try to flood our streets with millions of pounds worth of potentially deadly drugs – you will be caught and you will face the consequences.
“Drugs aren’t just damaging to the people that take them, they fuel violence and exploitation, damaging communities and leaving destruction in their wake.
“It’s thanks to the work of the NCA, Border Force officers, and the Spanish National Police, that two highly organised criminals are behind bars and that these drugs haven’t made their way onto the streets.”
Deputy Director Steve Whitton, from Border Force’s Maritime Command, said: “The work of the crew of HMC Protector, as well as our specialist deep rummage search officers, played a crucial role in this case.
“Their work was a key part of an investigation which has ultimately put two significant drug smugglers behind bars.”
- Interpol-backed crackdown on virtual ecommerce credit card skimmers results in three arrests in Indonesia
- Bosnian migrant jailed for 7 years for selling firearms to Swedish neo-Nazis and terrorists
- Customs workers in US state of Minnesota find bogus bank bills with face value of $900,000 in Chinese rail container
- Pair of drug traffickers handed 33 years behind bars for attempting to smuggle cocaine worth £60 million into UK
- Californian regulators want to force legal cannabis stores to display QR codes containing licence info
9 February 2018
9 February 2018
8 February 2018
28 November 2017
28 November 2017
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