Interpol’s Operation Storm Makers II has resulted in the arrest of 281 individuals across 27 countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and South America. The operation targeted offenses such as human trafficking, passport forgery, corruption, telecoms fraud, sexual exploitation, and others. Among the outcomes, 149 human trafficking victims were identified, and 360 new investigations were initiated.
The operation shed light on a growing trend where individuals from around the world are enticed by promises of lucrative jobs through social media and recruitment sites. Once in their destination countries, often in Asia, they find themselves coerced into participating in large-scale digital fraud schemes. The cases reported include 40 Malaysian victims who were promised high-paying jobs in Peru but were forced into telecoms fraud, Ugandans flown to Dubai for non-existent jobs and diverted to Thailand and Myanmar to be handed over to an online fraud syndicate, and an Indian accountant forced into online fraud schemes in “inhuman conditions” in Asia.
Rosemary Nalubega, Assistant Director at Interpol, emphasized the rising human cost associated with cyber scam centers and highlighted the need for concerted global action to address the increasing globalization of this crime trend. While the majority of cases are concentrated in Southeast Asia, Operation Storm Makers II provides evidence that this modus operandi is spreading, with victims sourced from other continents, and new scam centers emerging as far as Latin America.
The operation reinforces the urgency of tackling the interconnected issues of human trafficking and cyber fraud on a global scale, requiring collaborative efforts from law enforcement agencies across borders to disrupt criminal networks and protect potential victims.