A total of 130 individuals were detained and questioned by police as part of an international law enforcement operation targeting airline fraudsters.
According to Europol, the operation took place at 140 airports across 49 countries on June 16-17. The detained individuals had been in possession of plane tickets purchased using stolen credit card information, which in many cases had been obtained through online hack attacks.
Authorities said 101 of the suspects were detained in Europe, 11 in the Asia Pacific region, 10 in Latin America, and 8 in Canada and the United States. The suspects are believed to have been involved in various other crimes, including illegal immigration, human and drug trafficking, smuggling, fraud, terrorism, and cybercrime, Europol said.
The latest action, part of Operation Blue Amber, was supported by airlines, travel agencies, payment card companies, and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and its Perseuss online fraud prevention community. The operation was coordinated by Europol, Interpol and Ameripol, and supported by US and Canadian law enforcement.
During the operation, representatives of the private sector identified a total of 222 suspicious transactions, which they reported to officers deployed at airports.
“This operation was the culmination of many months of meticulous planning between Europol, law enforcement, prosecuting and border control agencies, airlines and credit card companies, and is a perfect example of how our combined forces can track down the organised crime gangs involved in this large-scale fraud and other offences,” said Wil van Gemert, Deputy Director Operations at Europol. “Along with our partners, we are committed to continue developing new levels of cooperation and new methods for fighting this type of crime.”
Europol says the airline industry faces losses estimated at €1 billion ($1.1 billion) due to fraudulent online purchases.
More than 500 suspects have been arrested so far as part of Operation Blue Amber, which targets organized crime groups and their infrastructures, Europol said on Monday.
Last week, the European law enforcement agency announced the results of an operation targeting a major cybercrime group based in Ukraine. Officers arrested five suspects believed to have developed, used and distributed the infamous banking Trojans known as Zeus and SpyEye.
The group is said to have infected the computers of tens of thousands of users with malware, causing damage estimated at more than €2 million ($2.2 million).
Related: 118 Online Airline Fraud Suspects Arrested in International Operation