The Criminal Intelligence Service Austria and the Financial Market Authority are issuing a warning about a new form of money laundering: professional money launderers are increasingly frequently hiring job hunters as financial agents under false pretences, in order to transfer money of a criminal origin through their bank accounts, and thereby to launder it. By doing so the recruited financial agent makes him/herself liable to prosecution, and the offence carries severe custodial sentences or fines.
In recent months professional money launderers have been trying to increase the size of their networks of financial agents, by recruiting people over the Internet, generally by means of spam e-mails, with the promise of lucrative earning opportunities. They lure people currently looking for lucrative jobs or secondary employment as financial agents using forged employment contracts. They promise a good salary, as well as the “employer” also paying the social deductions and taxes. The financial agent is required, as a “junior trader” in cryptocurrencies to exchange or directly transfer onwards money received into their account less a commission (ca. 5 %) into different cryptocurrencies, frequently Bitcoins. Such financial agents are also referred to as “money mules” in money laundering jargon, (i.e. donkeys that are used to transport money). The attempts by the perpetrators to explain the provenance of such money varies from one case to the next, and such explanations are changed constantly to tie in with current events.
In reality, the amounts to be transferred are the proceeds of criminal activity (narcotics dealing, fraud, tax offences etc.). Onward transfers of moneys of an unknown provenance has nothing to do with serious trading. Persons taking up such employment offers and transferring money onwards or exchanging it into other currencies, are liable to prosecution as “financial agents”! Furthermore, the perpetrators also use the documents that the financial agents send (e.g. personal identity cards, registration certificates, passports etc.), without the agent’s knowledge or explicit consent, to open other accounts for criminal purposes, which are then used for further money laundering.
Analyses conducted by the Financial Intelligence Unit (Geldwäschemeldestelle) have shown that the recruiting of financial agents has increased considerably due to the Corona virus pandemic. Furthermore, the groups of perpetrators are acting in a seemingly ever more professional manner, and are sending out deceptively realistic looking employment contracts.
Due to the strong increase in the frequency of this phenomenon, the Criminal Intelligence Service Austria and the Financial Market Authority are appealing to people not to fall for such offers! Financial agents make themselves liable for prosecution by acting in this manner: money laundering carries a custodial penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment, or administrative offences contravening financial market law may incur fines of up to EUR 60 000!
Don’t be a (money) mule!
Don’t become a financial agent!
Journalists may address further enquiries to:
Klaus Grubelnik (FMA Media Spokesperson):
+43/(0)676 88 249 516