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US police locate 123 missing children in Michigan during one-day sex trafficking operation

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US police locate 123 missing children

Law enforcement authorities in the US state of Michigan have found more than 120 missing children in a major one-day sex trafficking operation.

The effort, which took place at the end of last month, resulted in the location of 123 minors, who were interviewed about potentially being sexually victimised or used in a sex trafficking ring during the time they were away from home.

Investigators from a number of local law enforcement agencies, including the US Marshals Service and the Detroit Missing Child Recovery Unit, identified three possible cases of sex trafficking during the operation, which was the first if its kind to be carried out in the region.

Operation MISafeKid was launched to locate the 301 children that had been reported missing in the area following weeks of investigations, and placed an emphasis on those who may have fallen victim to sex traffickers.

One homeless teenager located during the operation was taken by police back to their command post after it emerged he had not eaten for three days.

He was then transferred to specialist child protection officers for aftercare.

The operation also resulted in the discovery of information relating to the whereabouts of two missing children in Texas and one in Minnesota, which the US Marshals Service is now actively investigating.

Investigators began assessing files related to missing child cases prior to the beginning of the operation, gathering information on locations officers should visit during the effort.

In a statement, the US Marshals Service said: “The Eastern District of Michigan is fully committed to assisting state and local agencies with locating and recovering missing children and the prevention of their falling victim to sex trafficking.

“The Detroit Missing Child Recovery Unit is tasked with investigating and recovering missing children upon request by a law enforcement agency currently attempting to locate a missing child. The message to the missing children and their families that we wish to convey is that we will never stop looking for you.”

Back in March, US anti-slavery charity Polaris revealed that reports of human trafficking received by its national hotline and SMS service rose by 13% last year, with the majority of calls relating to concerns that victims were being forced to sell sex against their will.

Of the 10,615 victims of trafficking or modern slavery identified by Polaris last year, 2,762 were children.

One of top five risk factors identified by Polaris among victims of human trafficking last year was involvement in the child welfare system.

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Criminal money mule recruiters increasingly targeting middle-aged Britons, UK fraud prevention agency finds

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money mule recruiters increasingly targeting middle-aged Britons

A new report from UK fraud prevention service Cifas has revealed that criminals ae increasingly targeting middle-aged Britons in a bid to persuade them to act as money mules.

In the latest edition of its annual Fraudscape study, Cifas said that it received more than 40,000 cases which “bore the hallmarks” of money mule activity in 2018, which was up 26% compared to the previous year.

While a rise in money mule activity was recorded across all age groups, the largest increase (35%) was seen among those aged between 41 and 60 last year.

Money mules agree to allow their bank accounts to be used by criminals to launder the proceeds of their illegal activities, and are typically offered a cut of the money they move as a commission, or high-value items such as expensive trainers in return.

Recruiters typically target potential mules online via social media platforms, historically seeking out young male victims who might be in financial difficulty, such as the unemployed or students.

While Cifas’ latest report shows that young people under the age of 30 are still by far the primary target of money mule recruiters, last year saw a marked rise in the number of older people becoming involved in the crime, albeit from a very low starting point.

More widely, the report reveals that Cifas members recorded almost 324,000 cases of fraud last year, which was up 6% on 2017.

Commenting on the contents of the study, Cifas CEO Mike Haley said: “Fraud in the UK continues to rise and fraudsters are constantly finding new methods of committing fraud.

“From identity theft through to using the young and naïve as money mules to launder money, the economic and social harm to the nation is growing.

“The only way to fight the threat is to combine communication and collaboration, working together to present a united front against the perpetrators.”

Acting as a money mule might seem like an easy way to make some quick cash, but those caught allowing their accounts to be used for the laundering of the proceeds of criminal activities can face stiff penalties, and will rarely be able to plead ignorance if they are caught.

Back in April of this year, police in Ireland warned students thinking of acting as money mules that they could face as many as 14 years behind bars if they allowed their bank accounts to be used by criminals to launder money.

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UK’s FBI seizes homes worth £80 million belonging to ‘politically exposed person’

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UK’s FBI seizes homes worth £80 million

Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) has secured a court order that may force the owner of three London properties estimated to be worth more than £80 million ($101 million) to fully account for the origin of their wealth.

The NCA, which is often referred to as the UK’s FBI, applied to London’s High Court for three Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) against an unnamed foreign official described as a “politically exposed person believed to be involved in serious crime”.

As well as the UWO, the court also imposed Interim Freezing Orders, which mean the properties cannot be sold, transferred or dissipated until the NCA’s investigation comes to a close.

All three properties are currently being held by offshore companies.

In a statement, Graeme Biggar, Director General of the UK’s National Economic Crime Centre (NECC), said: “The purchase of prime property in London is a tactic used to launder money and we will use all the powers available to us to target those who try to do this.

“A priority for the NECC is to ensure we explore every opportunity to deny assets linked to illicit finance. Our aim is to prevent misuse of the UK’s financial structures which undermines the integrity of the UK’s economy and institutions.”

UWOs, which came into effect in January last year, can be used by UK law enforcement agencies to seize suspicious assets and hold them until they have been properly accounted for.

The legislation under which they were introduced was drafted with corrupt Russians in mind.

This was only the second time the NCA has successfully applied for UWOs since the new legislation was enacted over a year ago.

The first orders were issued against Zamira Hajiyeva, 55, the wife of an imprisoned Azerbaijan banker who lives in a £12 million London home, owns a Berkshire golf course, and is said to have spent some £16 million at high-end London department store Harrods over a decade.

Her husband, Jahangir Hajiyev, 57, is currently serving a 15-year jailed term in his native Azerbaijan after he was convicted of illegally siphoning off millions of dollars from his state-controlled bank.

Full details of Hajiyeva’s profligate spending were laid bare this week, when High Court documents seen by the BBC revealed how she once spent £600,000 in a single day, and had blown £30,000 on chocolate in a single purchase.

The papers also reveal she spent £4 million at jewellers Boucheron, £1.75 million at Cartier, and £2,400 on wine and spirits in a single purchase.

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Spanish police arrest top football players and club officials over match-rigging allegations

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Spanish police arrest top football players

Investigators from Spain’s national police force have arrested a number of suspects during an operation targeting the fixing of the results of football matches.

A number of players are said to have been detained as part of the probe, including some who have retired from the game, and others who are currently playing with both first and second division teams.

Club officials are also believed to have been among the 11 people detained during the investigation, which was launched after authorities received complaints about possible match-fixing in a May 2018 La Liga game.

According to a report from Spain’s El Pais newspaper, former Real Madrid and Spanish national player Raul Bravo was among those detained, along with Huesca President Agustín Lasaosa, and Juan Carlos Galindo Lanuza, Huesca’s chief of medical staff.

Betting agencies and websites are said to have raised the alarm after detecting suspicious betting patterns during a match at the end of last season.

Police suspect that the network behind the match-fixing conspiracy would target games taking place at the beginning and end of the season, and would look to maximise their profits by manipulating aspects of the game that would allow them to place high pay-out combined bets.

It is thought that members of the gang would approach players or club officials with the offer of large cash payments in exchange for influencing the results of games.

A La Liga spokesperson said: “Today’s police action follows a complaint filed by La Liga with the Spanish authorities about possible match-fixing in a May 2018 match.

“We want to thank the national police for the extraordinary work done to dismantle what appears to be an organised criminal group dedicated to obtaining economic benefits through the predetermination of football matches.”

In a statement issued this morning, Valencia moved to dissociate itself from the investigation, warning: “Valencia CF… will undertake the appropriate legal measures, with the consequences that derive from it, against anyone who spreads any rumour or unfounded news that tries to relate our club to the aforementioned topic.”

Back in January, an operation led by Europol and police in Spain resulted in the arrest of 83 people thought to have been involved in a multi-million euro tennis match-fixing conspiracy.

Those arrested, of whom 28 were said to be professional players, were accused of either being part of or colluding with an organised crime network that bribed players to guarantee pre-determined outcomes of tennis matches.

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