Europol: Strike against crypto-money laundering ring leads to arrests

A few weeks after a major Europol report on cybercrime, the investigators struck. Investigators found 20 people involved in the QQAAZZ ring online.

As the police authority Europol announced in a press release, she has struck a significant blow against an international money laundering ring called QQAAZZ

In the course of the investigation, in which police authorities from 16 countries were involved, 20 people have now been arrested. They are accused of money laundering on a large scale, including through misuse of crypto currencies.

The investigators in Latvia, Bulgaria, Great Britain, Spain and Italy carried out a total of around 40 raids. The USA, Portugal, Great Britain and Spain each initiated criminal proceedings against the arrested. Most of the searches in this case were carried out in Latvia as part of operations led by the Latvian State Police ( Latvijas Valsts Policija) carried out. In Bulgaria, authorities also confiscated bitcoin mining equipment.

The indictments before the courts in Pittsburgh, USA, are said to show how this criminal network operated. It is estimated that the Bitcoin Optimizer network has laundered or attempted to launder tens of millions of euros of stolen funds since 2016.

QQAAZZ advertised its “service” in forums

The QQAAZZ network includes members primarily from Latvia, but also from Georgia, Bulgaria, Romania and Belgium. The perpetrators opened and maintained hundreds of corporate and personal accounts with financial institutions around the world. This is where money from cyber criminals ended up, who in turn stole it from their victims’ accounts. The funds were then transferred to other bank accounts controlled by QQAAZZ. Then “tumbling” services were used, which were supposed to hide the original source of the funds and convert them into cryptocurrency. After QQAAZZ had collected a fee of up to 50 percent for this “service”, they returned the remaining amount of the stolen funds to their cybercriminal clientele.

The organization advertised in Russian-language online forums, which are particularly popular with cyber criminals. QQAAZZ offered its special skills and services there, as criminals need for a variety of their cyber activities. There was talk of a “global, complicit bank transfer service”. The criminal gangs behind some of the world’s most harmful malware families (including Dridex, Trickbot, GozNym, etc.) are among those who have used QQAAZZ’s services, according to Europol’s investigation.

Only at the beginning of this month had Europol submitted a detailed report . In it, she explicitly warned of the threats posed by cyber crime in connection with cryptocurrencies.

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