Two people have been arrested in Zurich as part of a global anti-money laundering operation.
In Switzerland 175 people have been identified as “money mules” in cantons Vaud, Zurich, Aargau and Basel, 78 of whom are suspected “recruiters”, said Federal Office of Police spokesperson Anne-Florence Débois on Wednesday.
Her agency had a coordinating role between the European Police Agency (Europol) and the Swiss cantons, she said.
Europol announcedexternal link on Wednesday that police in 31 countries, including Switzerland, had apprehended 228 people and identified more than 3,800 money mules as part of a major operation against money laundering.
The operation, which ran from September to November, led to the opening of more than 1,000 criminal investigations and prevented a “total loss of €12.9 million (CHF14.1 million)”, Europol said.
It said that unlike their drug-trade counterparts, money mules “are not shuffling illicit goods over a physical border. Instead, they take part – often unknowingly – in money-laundering activities by receiving and transferring illegally obtained money between bank accounts and/or countries”.
Europol also said that recruiters of money mules are coming up with ingenious ways to lure candidates. These include romance scams on online dating sites and increasing use of social media “to recruit new accomplices through get-rich-quick online advertisements”, which appeal particularly to young people.
Europol says the money-muling awareness campaign #DontbeaMule launches today across Europe to raise awareness of this type of fraud.