20 members of the multinational cybercriminal group QQAAZZ were charged this week in the US, Portugal, Spain, and the UK for providing money-laundering services.
The arrests are the result of an unprecedented international law enforcement operation, coordinated by the Europol and dubbed Operation 2BaGoldMule, involving agencies from 16 countries. The police executed more than 40 house searches in Latvia, Bulgaria, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Italy.
The police also seized an extensive bitcoin mining operation in Bulgaria associated with QQAAZZ.
QQAAZZ attempted to launder tens of millions stolen from victims starting with 2016 by the world’s foremost cybercriminals.
“Comprised of several layers of members mainly from Latvia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Belgium, the QQAAZZ network opened and maintained hundreds of corporate and personal bank accounts at financial institutions throughout the world to receive money from cybercriminals who stole it from accounts of victims.” reads the press release published by Europol. “The funds were then transferred to other QQAAZZ-controlled bank accounts and sometimes converted to cryptocurrency using ‘tumbling’ services designed to hide the original source of the funds. After taking a fee of up to 50-percent, QQAAZZ returned the balance of the stolen funds to their cybercriminal clientele.”
The QQAAZZ gang advertised its services as a ‘global, complicit bank drops service’ on multiple Russian-speaking online cybercriminal forums.
The member of the gang used instant messaging apps to instruct their client on how to transfer the stolen funds to bank accounts under their control. The bank accounts were opened by money mules using fake and legitimate Polish and Bulgarian ID documents.
QQAAZZ also leverages dozens of shell companies to open other bank accounts.
The money laundering operation involved hundreds of corporate and personal bank accounts at financial institutions throughout the world.
Some of the money was also “converted to cryptocurrency using ‘tumbling’ services designed to hide the original source of the funds.”
“The funds were then transferred to other QQAAZZ-controlled bank accounts and sometimes converted to cryptocurrency using “tumbling” services designed to hide the original source of the funds.” states the DoJ. “After taking a fee of up to 40 to 50 percent, QQAAZZ returned the balance of the stolen funds to their cybercriminal clientele.”
“Cybercriminals are constantly exploring new possibilities to abuse technology and financial frameworks to victimise millions of users in a moment from anywhere in the world,” said Edvardas Šileris, Head of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre.
“Today’s operation shows how through a proper law enforcement international coordination we can turn the table on these criminals and bring them to justice.”
(SecurityAffairs – hacking, QQAAZZ cybercrime gang)