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Rapid Response Team: 0800 559 3500
Switchboard: +44 (0)203 947 1539
Rapid Response Team: 0800 559 3500
Switchboard: +44 (0)203 947 1539

Huge European Crackdown on Money Mules

Author: Niall Hearty  18 December 2023

Niall Hearty of financial crime specialists Rahman Ravelli outlines the most notable aspects of a coordinated attempt to stop the movement of the proceeds of crime.

More than a thousand people have been arrested by police in 26 countries as part of a crackdown on suspected money mules.

The individuals were detained on suspicion of having moved money derived from illegal activities in exchange for petty cash. According to the European Union’s law enforcement agency Europol, this was the largest international operation targeting so-called money mules. 

During the ninth phase of what is called the European Money Mule Action (EMMA 9) - which was carried out in June, October and November - national law enforcement agencies collaborated with Europol, Eurojust (the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation), Interpol and several private business partners to combat money mules and their recruiters. The joint investigation focused on online money transfer businesses, cryptocurrency exchanges, online travel providers, ‘Know Your Customer’ (KYC) firms and global computer technology corporations.

EMMA aims to fight money mule networks that assist various types of criminal activity, including cyber-enabled fraud against financial institutions and their customers. Its ninth phase led to the arrest of 10,759 individuals considered to be significant money laundering facilitators and 474 people suspected of being their recruiters.

This operation was similar to crackdowns carried out in 2016 and 2022 and represents a continued effort by EMMA to frustrate the illegal activities of money mules and their recruiters. This latest crackdown was supported by more than 2,800 banks and other financial institutions and revealed 10,736 fraudulent transactions involving millions of euros. It also identified new patterns of international money laundering. These include the exploitation of migrants from Ukraine, more thieves impersonating bank staff to persuade older people to open new accounts that criminals can then use, and the use of artificial intelligence to create fake identities to fool bank security checks.

Law enforcement agencies will undoubtedly seek to gain fresh intelligence from the interviews of those caught up in these arrests. Electronic equipment seized during this operation will be forensically interrogated over the coming months and the results of this could lead to a wealth of further leads and arrests in the future.

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Niall Hearty


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Niall has a wealth of corporate crime expertise and an ability to coordinate global bribery and corruption cases. His achievements in such investigations have made him a logical choice for corporate clients.

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