The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has arrested a Dutch national in Queensland, alleging the 22-year-old acted as a money mule for a cyber crime syndicate behind a spate of malware attacks.
The AFP allege that the man was part of a money mule network suspected of laundering more than $3.5 million stolen from Australian bank accounts.
The AFP’s investigation into the matter found that the man, in one instance, had $18,000 in stolen funds transferred into his bank account.
Police allege the Dutch national took a five per cent commission and withdrew cash, converting it to Bitcoin via a Bitcoin ATM in Sydney before transferring it offshore.
The arrest comes after the AFP began an investigation early last year into malware targeting bank account holders in Australia and overseas.
It is believed that a cybercrime syndicate is responsible for the malware, which is used to steal bank account details to extract funds from victims, using the money mule network to transfer the stolen funds offshore, the AFP said.
The AFP alleges that the money mule network has laundered millions of dollars in funds stolen from Australian accounts by the cybercrime syndicate behind this malware. However, the total amount of funds stolen internationally has not yet been determined.
AFP Cybercrime Operations commander Chris Goldsmid warned that if something sounds too good to be true then it often is and, while these mules think they can earn money with little effort, they are stealing from Australians and will face the full force of the law.
“Would-be money mules need to look beyond earning that quick cash,” Goldsmid said. “As we believe happened in this investigation, you just might be helping a cybercrime syndicate steal thousands of dollars from honest everyday Australians.
“Further, you face the possibility of being prosecuted and imprisoned for dealing in proceeds of crime.”
“An Australian victim of this malware reported a loss of $40,000 from their bank account. For many Australians, this represents years upon years of savings,” he added.
Investigations into both the cybercrime syndicate and money mule network are ongoing.
News of the arrest, which took place in December last year, comes as the AFP takes in a trove of digital devices after carrying out a series of search warrants in Queensland relating to the shutdown of DarkMarket, claimed to be the world’s largest illegal marketplace on the dark web.
The local raids came almost exactly a week after German police arrested a 34-year-old Australian national accused of operating the DarkMarket marketplace, which it said was used for selling drugs, counterfeit cash, stolen credit card data, anonymous SIM cards and malware.