Money is seen to be the centre of all Cyber Crimes that happen both in the Dark/Deep Web and the Surface Web. Most of these crimes go undetected and also is never cracked down, due to the involvement of State/Non-State nonaccountable actors. The use of Digital Currency and the nature of the crime being with non-geographical dominion makes the Crime difficult to be tracked down. The Cyber Crime economy has seen a humongous jump since the Covid Era, especially in these types of Crime on the Internet. According to Cybersecurity ‘Ventures’, Cybercrime had inflict damages totalling to USD 6 trillion globally in 2021 which amounts to becoming the world’s third-largest economy after the U.S. and China.
The ‘Black Axe’ is one such West African International Criminal Organization whose origin can be traced back to year 1977 seemingly among the a confraternity in Nigeria. This organisation can be termed today as a cyber-crime and money laundering organisation. However, among many of those crimes committed by this group, it was responsible for the 10 July 1991 mass murder of students of Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Osun State, Nigeria.
Operation “Operation Jackal”
The Operation codenamed “Operation Jackal” of the INTERPOL, was targeted on this group ‘Black Axe’ as part of the international law enforcement operation. The crime syndicate ‘Black Axe’ first was traced to be involved in cybercrime since year 2015, and was suspected of orchestrating numerous linkages to spurious online dating and “419 scams.” According to the related INTERPOL’s statement on the Operations: “Black Axe and similar groups are responsible for the majority of the world’s cyber-enabled financial fraud as well as many other serious crimes, according to evidence analysed by INTERPOL’s Financial Crime and Anti-Corruption Centre (IFCACC) and national law enforcement,”. INTERPOL also said there could be more than 4,000 money mules operating for the gang ‘Black Axe’, from Irish and other addresses.
The Crackdown involved the use of sophisticated technology, Red Notices, Searches, Tracking, Confiscation, Shutting Down and ultimately leading to raids on locations related to the gang. The action ‘action week’ of 26 to 30 September 2022 was the time period of the culminative exercise, which involve police worldwide launch of enforcement operations against individuals linked to the Black Axe group. This final charge also entailed, arresting suspected criminal operators or money mules, raiding and shutting down premises and seizing assets. Ireland’s capital Dublin was one of the two mains areas of focus during the operations against ‘Black Axe’
Two INTERPOL operational support teams were also deployed to South Africa and Ireland respectively to help coordinate international law enforcement teams on the ground. In Italy, the Carabinieri made three arrests in Campobasso within the framework of the operation.
Operation “Operation Jackal” on ‘Black Axe’
In total, the operation resulted in:
- EUR 1.2 million intercepted in bank accounts
- 75 arrests
- 49 property searches
- 7 INTERPOL Purple Notices, detailing criminal modus operandi
- 6 INTERPOL Red Notices, issued for internationally-wanted fugitives
“Interpol’s Global Financial Crime Task Force has shown remarkable effectiveness in disrupting illicit financial flows, bringing together cyber and finance experts across sectors to track and cut off criminal money trails,” said Stephen Kavanagh, Executive Director of Police Services, INTERPOL.
The full list of participating countries in Operation Jackal are: Argentina, Australia, Côte d’Ivoire, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Nigeria, Spain, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The use of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Rapid Response Protocol [ARRP]
The present “Operation Jackal” on ‘Black Axe’ by INTERPOL saw the successfully deployment of the new global stop-payment mechanism known as the Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Rapid Response Protocol [ARRP], which is currently in its final stage of roll-out at INTERPOL. This ARRP has been deployed at INTERPOL and is being used within the framework of INTERPOL’s Global Financial Crime Task Force. This deployment at INTERPOL is an IT System based on an RDBMS/Big Data having the ARRP enables member countries to login and query the feeds earlier done and to quickly intercept illegal proceeds of crime.
In the later part of year 2021, in an operation coordinated by the INTERPOL, namely HAECHI-II, enforcement agencies in more than 20 countries carried out arrest of over 1,000 individuals and intercepted about $27 million of illicit funds as part of a crackdown on cyber-enabled financial crime. India was one of the participating countries. Operation HAECHI-II, which ran from June to September 2021, targeted the global threat of cyber-enabled financial crime. The operation also saw INTERPOL officials’ pilot-testing the global stop-payment mechanism — the Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Rapid Response Protocol [ARRP] — which proved critical to successfully intercepting illicit funds in several HAECHI-II cases.
“The ARRP is a game-changer in the fight against global financial crime, where speed and international cooperation are crucial to intercepting illicit funds before they disappear into the pockets of money mules abroad,” said Rory Corcoran, Director of IFCACC. “INTERPOL’s Global Financial Crime Task Force has shown remarkable effectiveness in disrupting illicit financial flows, bringing together cyber and finance experts across sectors to track and cut off criminal money trails.”
The Cyber Crime of Financial Nature generally lead to Money laundering in which the transaction is concealed or disguised its identity and also enabling illegally means to acquire the proceeds so that they appear to have originated from legitimate sources. Money Laundering is frequently a component of other, much more serious, crimes such as drug trafficking, robbery or extortion. The Global Money Laundering is estimated between 2 to 5% of World GDP, and hence has a significant influence on the Global Economy.
In the subject crime; ‘Black Axe’ have been able to laundered money, and have been able to divert the currency to set up front businesses, using other false documents and also have been able to establish legitimate government contract with possible leaderships in West Africa. Meanwhile, police in Ireland, after having inferred the involvement of the general public, warned the people not to agree to become money mules. “If you’re a money mule, when you hand over your bank account, it will be used for organised crime’, and innocent citizens may become party to the crime unknowingly”.