Closing ranks on West African organized crime: more than EUR 2 million seized in Operation Jackal

8 August 2023
Tackling the global footprint of Black Axe and similar West Africa-based organized crime groups

LYON, France – An INTERPOL crackdown on West African organized crime has seen bank accounts frozen, suspects arrested, and financial investigations triggered worldwide.

Between 15 and 29 May, Operation Jackal mobilised police forces, financial crime units and cybercrime agencies across 21 countries around the world to deliver a targeted strike against Black Axe and similar West African organized crime groups.

More than 200 bank accounts linked to the illicit proceeds of online financial crime were blocked during the operation and several kingpins arrested whose crime networks are considered a serious global security threat.

IFCACC deployed officers to Lisbon where Portuguese authorities raided five properties. This led to the arrest of four suspects and the seizure of EUR 5,000 in cash.
Cards and cash seized from suspect who was detected at an ATM using eight different money mule cards to make illicit withdrawals.
Cash seized from another suspect who was arrested earlier in the year also related to West African organized crime groups.
Raids by police in Portugal led to arrests and cash seizures.

Results at a glance:

  • EUR 2.15M seized or frozen
  • 103 arrests
  • 1,110 suspects identified
  • 208 bank accounts blocked

“Organized crime is mostly driven by financial gain and INTERPOL is committed to working with our member countries to deprive these groups of their ill-gotten assets. This successful operation involving so many countries clearly shows what can be achieved through international cooperation, and will serve as a blueprint for concerted police action against financial crime in the future,” said Isaac Kehinde Oginni, Director of INTERPOL’s Financial Crime and Anti-Corruption Centre (IFCACC).

“It also sends a strong message to West African crime networks that no matter where they hide in cyberspace, INTERPOL will pursue them relentlessly. The illegal activities of Black Axe and similar crimes syndicates will remain a priority for INTERPOL,” added the IFCACC Director.

In Portugal, four investigations resulted in the accumulated seizure and recovery of almost EUR 1.4 million.

A total of 34 arrests were made during the Irish leg of Operation Jackal, 12 for investigative purposes and 22 for money laundering and gangland-style offences.

In five criminal cases involving Irish companies, EUR 225,655 was recovered through Operation Jackal beyond Irish borders.

‘It became apparent early in the investigation that international cooperation and the use of INTERPOL’s analytical and coordination capabilities was essential to the investigation, and remains a pivotal element to the success to date and the ongoing investigation into this group,” said Deputy Head of the National Central Bureau in Dublin Tony Kelly.

Further arrests and prosecutions are foreseen across the world as intelligence continues to come in and investigations unfold.

Black Axe, and an increasing number of other West African organized crime syndicates, is a violent mafia-style gang renowned for cyber-enabled financial fraud, in particular business email compromise schemes, romance scams, inheritance scams, credit card fraud, tax fraud, advance payment scams and money laundering.

Empowering member countries

Sharing case studies and investigative intelligence both ahead of and during the operation, countries were able to target specific suspects and locations for raids, house searches, judicial proceedings and arrests.

The General Secretariat provided support services in the field, facilitating arrests through case coordination, crime analysis and the provision of intelligence leads.

INTERPOL officials were deployed to Cote d’Ivoire, Portugal and Spain where they supported local law enforcement with crime analysis and case coordination support.

INTERPOL also assisted local law enforcement in examining the devices seized during arrests, cross checking data against INTERPOL criminal databases and coordinating outreach with law enforcement agencies in other member countries.

Participating countries : Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Cote d’Ivoire, France, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States

Operation Jackal 2022 saw EUR 1.2 million intercepted in bank accounts and 75 arrests.