Law enforcement officials from Europe, the United States and Australia conducted a special operation during which 20 people were arrested, allegedly members of the criminal group QQAAZZ. Its name previously appeared in the case of Russian rapper Maxim Boyko, who was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in April on charges of money laundering through cryptographic software.
According to a publication on Europol's website, QQAAZZ has "laundered or attempted to launder" tens of millions of euros for the benefit of its cybercrime clients. The search for customers was carried out using the Internet, and cryptov currencies were one of the tools for money laundering, the agency said.
As part of an "unprecedented international law enforcement operation", about 40 addresses were searched in Latvia, Bulgaria, the UK, Spain and Italy. Latvian police played the most active role. Also in Bulgaria, the equipment for bitcoin mining was seized.
According to Europol, QQAAZZ used hundreds of corporate and personal bank accounts to receive money from cybercriminals from victims' accounts. Then they were transferred to other accounts and sometimes converted into cryptov currencies using mixers. QQAAZZ took payment of up to 50% of the laundered amount.
QQAAZZ promoted its services on Russian-speaking cybercriminal forums, positioning itself as a "global banking drops service". Their services were used by some of the largest distributors of malware, including Dridex, Trickbot and GozNym.
"Cybercriminals are constantly opening new opportunities to abuse technological and financial paradigms in order to attack millions of users from anywhere in the world. Today's operation shows that with proper law enforcement cooperation at the international level we can turn the situation against these criminals and bring them to justice," said the head of the European Center for Cybercrime, Edwardas Schilleris.