Interpol announced on Tuesday the successful culmination of Operation HAECHI IV, an extensive transnational police initiative spanning six months.
This collaborative effort, involving 34 nations and supported by funding from South Korea, has yielded significant outcomes, including the apprehension of 3,500 alleged cybercriminals and the confiscation of $300 million in cash and digital assets.
The operation, which concluded in December, strategically targeted seven cyber-enabled scams: voice phishing, romance scams, online sextortion, investment fraud, money laundering associated with illegal online gambling, business email compromise fraud, and e-commerce fraud. Notably, the majority of the investigated crimes—approximately three-quarters—pertained to business email compromise, e-commerce fraud, and investment fraud.
Interpol issued two “Purple Notices,” comprehensive bulletins divulging information on criminals’ modus operandi, objects, devices, and concealment methods identified during the operation.
One Purple Notice exposed a scam in South Korea, where investors were enticed to acquire non-fungible tokens (NFTs) with promises of substantial returns. Described as a classic “rug pull,” this deceptive practice involves persuading investors to purchase tokens, only for the operators to vanish with the funds, leaving investors with worthless digital assets. While Interpol illustrated the announcement with cat-related pixel art NFTs, it did not specify if these were the assets affected by the rug-pull.
The second Purple Notice warned of the exploitation of artificial intelligence (AI) and deep fake technology to enhance the credibility of scams, allowing criminals to conceal their identities and pose as family members, friends, or love interests. This phenomenon was observed in the UK, where authorities reported instances of AI-generated synthetic content used in deception, fraud, harassment, and extortion, particularly in impersonation scams, online sexual blackmail, and investment fraud. Some cases even involved the use of voice cloning technology to impersonate individuals known to the victims.
Interpol commended the joint efforts of Filipino and Korean authorities, highlighting their collaboration leading to the arrest of a “high-profile online gambling criminal” in Manila, Philippines. This achievement followed a two-year tracking effort by Korea’s National Police Agency.
The alleged criminals identified during the operation often faced the Interpol Global Rapid Intervention of Payments mechanism (I-GRIP), preventing the flow of criminal proceeds through the global financial system. Through these orders and additional efforts, Operation HAECHI IV successfully blocked 82,112 suspicious bank accounts and seized $199 million in hard currency and $101 million in virtual assets.
Interpol considers Operation HAECHI IV a resounding success, citing a 200 percent increase in arrests compared to previous efforts. Kim Dong Kwon, head of Interpol’s National Central Bureau in South Korea, emphasized the evolution and expansion of Project HAECHI to stay ahead of emerging criminal trends. He stated, “Despite criminals’ endeavors to gain illicit advantages through contemporary trends, they will eventually be apprehended and face due punishment. To accomplish this, Project HAECHI will consistently evolve and expand its scope.”