Australia and US team up to dismantle $100 million Chinese FX and Crypto scam

The Australian Federal Police has charged four Chinese nationals living in Sydney as part of an investigation into an organised criminal syndicate involved in a cyber-enabled investment scam that has resulted in more than US$100 million in losses world-wide.

Aged 27, 24, 19 and 19, the four men have been charged with proceeds of crime related offences, and are scheduled to next appear in Downing Centre Local Court in January 2023.

The scam involves the unlawful manipulation of legitimate electronic trading platforms, normally licensed to foreign exchange brokers who then provide the software to their clients.

FX and Crypto trading apps manipulated for false profits

The United States Secret Service (USSS) notified the AFP-led Joint Policing Cybercrime Coordination Centre (JPC3) about Australian links to the predominantly US-based scam in August 2022. AFP Cyber Command then began a parallel investigation – codenamed Operation Wickham – in cooperation with an investigation by the New South Wales Police Force.

The results of this investigation have so far resulted in the AFP-led Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce restraining $22.5 million in 24 bank accounts allegedly linked to the criminal syndicate. Investigations into the true scope of the fraud on potential Australian victims are ongoing.

The organised crime syndicate employs a sophisticated mix of social engineering techniques, including the use of dating sites, employment sites and messaging platforms to gain the victim’s trust before mentioning investment opportunities.

The victims are then directed to both fraudulent and legitimate investment applications that deal in foreign exchange and cryptocurrency, which have been maliciously manipulated to show a false positive return on investments.

The syndicate recruits victims to subscribe to a financial investment service, and manipulates the data provided through the legitimate application to encourage further investment, while concealing the fact their money…

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