In March 2016, the Europol in partnership with other governing bodies and private parties worldwide, launched the European Money Mule Action (EMMA) designed to address the issue of money muling. A money mule is a type of money laundering where an individual receives money to their bank account from a third party and transfers it to another person in the form of cash or an additional electronic payment – an action that earns them a commission. “Simply put, money mules help criminal syndicates to remain anonymous while moving funds around the world.”
Typically, a money mule is unaware of their involvement in a money laundering scheme, thus enhancing the ease and appeal of the practice. However, what Europol and their partners aim to emphasize through their "#DontbeaMule" campaign and each EMMA is prevalence of this practice and culpability of the mule. Depending on the laws of the country of the relevant jurisdiction, a money mule can be faced with imprisonment, a criminal record, and adverse effects to their financial integrity. Since the first EMMA, there have been five internationally coordinated actions to uncover money mules in the world, the results:
- EMMA 1: March 2016
- 700 money mules were identified across Europe
- 81 individuals were arrested after 198 suspects were interviewed by law enforcement agencies
- 70 banks and private partners supported the action and over 900 victims were identified
- More than 90% of the reported money mule transactions were linked to cyber crime
- EMMA 2: November 2016
- 580 money mules were identified across Europe
- 178 individuals were arrested, and 380 suspects were interviewed by law enforcement with overall reported losses amounting to EUR 23 million
- 106 banks and private partners supported the action
- 95% of the reported money mule transactions were linked to cyber crime
- EMMA 3: November 2017
- Law enforcement authorities from 26 countries participated with the support of 257 banks and private sector partners
- 159 individuals were arrested and 409 were interviewed by law enforcement authorities
- 766 money mules and – for the first time – 59 recruiters/organizers were identified
- Total reported losses amounting to almost EUR 31 million, where over 90% were linked to cyber crime
- EMMA 4: December 2018
- Law enforcement authorities from 30 countries with the support of over 300 banks, 20 bank associations and other private sector partners identified 26,376 fraudulent money mule transactions, preventing a total loss of over EUR 36.1 million
- 1,504 money mules and 140 recruiters/organizers were identified leading to 168 individuals arrested and 837 criminal investigations were opened – many of which are still ongoing
- EMMA 5: December 2019
- Law enforcement authorities from 31 countries with the support of over 650 banks, 17 bank associations, and other private sector partners identified 7,520 fraudulent money mule transactions, preventing a total loss of over EUR 12.9 million
- 3,833 money mules and 386 recruiters/organizers were identified leading to 228 individuals arrested and 1,025 criminal investigations were opened – many of which are still ongoing
As referenced above, the “#DontbeaMule” campaign has been developed to provide public awareness and prevention of the prevalence of money laundering through money mules worldwide. Europol has created -- for download -- different posters and flyers in 25 languages detailing how these criminals operate, how they can protect themselves and what to do if they become a victim.
For example, here are some key items to be aware of:
- Recruitment can be done through social media, online job forums, and even in person, on the street.
- At risk individuals are typically unemployed, young adults looking for a quick low effort way to make a buck, immigrants, and/or destitute.
- Two biggest warning signs of a money mule scheme promise instant cash and are job postings with limited, vague, and/or poorly developed advertisement.
- Do your due diligence on any potential offer or opportunity.
- Guard personal bank account information – only share with an individual you know, trust, and/or have vetted.
**REMEMBER: As a money mule, illegal money will travel through your bank account and thus you will be held responsible.**
Europol and Eurojust organised various operational and coordination meetings in The Hague to discuss the unique approach of each Member State to tackle money muling in their respective country. During the three-month action, Europol supported the operations by assisting the national authorities with cross-checks against Europol’s databases and intelligence gathering for further analysis, while Eurojust contributed to the swift forwarding and facilitation of the execution of European Investigation Orders.