Operation Monopoly was carried out with international cooperation between Dubai Police and other security agencies. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The Dubai Police has successfully carried out a coordinated security operation targeting an international syndicate of expert cybercriminals and fraudsters exploiting major enterprises in several countries by penetrating email correspondences between company heads and branch managers.

Dubai Police, through their specialised Anti-Cybercrime Team, traced the gang’s two-phase transfers of an estimated total of $36 million. The criminals employed sophisticated techniques, moving money from one account to another to cover their tracks before withdrawing it via intermediaries and depositing it into specialised money holding and transfer companies.

Codenamed “Monopoly”, the operation resulted in the arrest of 43 suspects of various nationalities. In addition, the identity of the gang leader, who is outside the country, and 20 other accomplices has been unmasked. An international pursuit and arrest warrant, a “red notice”, was issued against them, significantly dismantling one of the most dangerous international hacking and fraud gangs and recovering the stolen money.

The operation began when a lawyer of a company in one Asian country logged a criminal complaint through Dubai Police’s anti-cybercrime platform, e-crime.ae, claiming that an international gang had hacked the email of the company’s CEO, accessed correspondences, impersonated him, and instructed the accounts manager to transfer around $19 million to an account in one of the banks in Dubai. It was claimed that the amount was for the benefit of the company’s branch in the emirate.

Dubai Police’s departments of Anti-Cybercrime and Anti-Money Laundering immediately traced the money’s trail and began monitoring the gang members’ movements, luring them to the UAE without raising their suspicions.

The account to which the money was transferred belonged to a person who opened it in 2018 and had left the country since. The gang demonstrated mastery in their evasion tactics, re-routing the funds through several accounts before withdrawing and depositing them in cash vaults of specialised money holding and transport companies.

Dubai Police indicated that while the task force was monitoring the case, the gang hacked into the electronic communications of another company outside the country and seized an amount close to $17 million. They then transferred the amounts in the same sophisticated manner that involves multiple transfers before depositing them into their cash vaults.

Nevertheless, in an astute display of police work, Dubai Police captured 43 suspects involved in these crimes and seized luxury cars and expensive artworks.

Dubai Police confirmed that hackers in this gang would identify their victims precisely, studying their electronic activities and primarily targeting corporate executives, business people, and extremely wealthy individuals. However, the gang’s tactics were no match to Dubai Police’s elite teams of anti-cybercrime officers and experts armed with the latest AI-empowered technologies.

Dubai Police praised the international collaboration between police and security agencies that participated in Operation Monopoly, particularly between the case’s task force and a number of countries, including France, Hong Kong.