Op Jackal takes on organised West African financial crime

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An Interpol crackdown on West African organised crime saw bank accounts frozen, suspects arrested, and financial investigations triggered worldwide.

Operation Jackal mobilised police forces, financial crime units and cybercrime agencies across 21 countries around the world including Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria and South Africa to deliver a targeted strike against Black Axe and similar West African organised crime groups.

More than 200 bank accounts linked to illicit proceeds of online financial crime were blocked during the operation and several kingpins arrested whose crime networks are considered a serious global security threat. The operation saw EUR 2.15M seized or frozen; 103 arrests; 1 110 suspects identified and 208 bank accounts blocked

“Organised crime is largely driven by financial gain and Interpol is committed to working with member countries to deprive these groups of ill-gotten assets. This successful operation involving so many countries shows what can be achieved through international co-operation and will serve as a blueprint for concerted police action against financial crime in the future,” Isaac Kehinde Oginni, Director of Interpol Financial Crime and Anti-Corruption Centre (IFCACC).

“It sends a strong message to West African crime networks no matter where they hide in cyberspace, Interpol will pursue them. The illegal activities of Black Axe and similar crimes syndicates will remain a priority for Interpol,” he added.

In Portugal, four investigations resulted in accumulated seizure and recovery of almost EUR 1.4 million.

A total of 34 arrests were made during the Irish leg of Operation Jackal, 12 for investigative purposes and 22 for money laundering and gangland-style offences.

In five criminal cases involving Irish companies, EUR 225,655 was recovered through Operation Jackal beyond Irish borders.

‘It became apparent early in the investigation that international co-operation and the use of Interpol’s analytical and co-ordination capabilities was essential to the investigation. It remains a pivotal element to the success and ongoing investigation into this group,” Deputy Head of the National Central Bureau in Dublin Tony Kelly, said.

Further arrests and prosecutions are expected across internationally as intelligence continues to come in and investigations unfold.

Black Axe and an increasing number of West African organised crime syndicates, is a violent mafia-style gang known for cyber-enabled financial fraud, in particular business email compromise schemes, romance scams, inheritance scams, credit card fraud, tax fraud, advance payment scams and money laundering.

Sharing case studies and investigative intelligence ahead of and during the operation saw countries target specific suspects and locations for raids, house searches, judicial proceedings and arrests.

Interpol officials were deployed to Cote d’Ivoire, Portugal and Spain to support local law enforcement with crime analysis and case co-ordination support.

Interpol assisted local law enforcement examining devices seized during arrests, cross checking data against Interpol criminal databases and co-ordinating outreach with law enforcement agencies in member countries.

Participating countries were Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Cote d’Ivoire, France, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States

Operation Jackal in 2022 saw EUR 1.2 million intercepted in bank accounts and 75 arrests with this year’s figures even higher.