An international law enforcement operation targeting airline fraudsters has resulted in the detention and investigation of 140 individuals found in possession of tickets bought using stolen or fake credit card details.
The two-day operation conducted June 15-16 was organized globally through coordination centers at Europol in The Hague, INTERPOL Singapore and Ameripol in Bogota, with support from Canadian and US law enforcement authorities. Over 74 airlines and 43 countries were involved in thisyear’s action, which took place in over 130 airports across the world.
Individuals arrested during the operation were also found to be involved in other forms of crimes, including human trafficking, drug trafficking, cybercrime and terrorism.
During the operation, 252 suspicious transactions were reported. As a result, 140 people were detained, denied boarding and questioned by police.
Representatives from airlines, online travel agencies and payment card companies based at Europol’s command post worked together with experts from Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) to identify suspicious transactions and send confirmation to law enforcement officers deployed at the airports.
Payment card schemes, card issuers, Perseuss and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) supported the operation by providing information to confirm any suspicious fraudulent airline ticket transactions.
Further support was received on-the-day by Frontex which deployed officers to the command post at Europol and at a number of airports across Europe, while INTERPOL assisted with the rapid identification of wanted persons and stolen documents. A Eurojust official assisted at the coordination center in The Hague.
This action is part of Europol’s support to the security framework surrounding the 2016 UEFA European Championship. Special attention was paid to passengers travelling to the EURO 2016 football tournament, with checks conducted both at airports in France and in countries of departure. A Europol mobile office was deployed to Paris throughout the action to facilitate the exchange of critical data, allowing law enforcement in the field to quickly identify potential perpetrators.
“This type of fraud not only targets innocent consumers by stealing their payment card details, but also poses significant risks to global security by allowing criminals and terrorists to travel under the radar. Only through coordinated interventions such as the Airport Action Days can we track down the organized criminal networks behind this large-scale fraud and detain the criminals involved before they have the chance to commit other crimes,” said INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock.
"I cannot stress enough the importance of preventing and recovering fraud related losses for our members." added Aleks Popovich, IATA’s Senior Vice President, Financial and Distribution Services. "The Global Action Days have become an important activity to tackle fraud against the airline industry and, since last year, as part of IATA’s comprehensive Industry Fraud Prevention program. IATA has continued to increase its involvement in these activities by coordinating the energies of airlines all over the world, working in close cooperation with Europol, Ameripol, Interpol and other Law Enforcement Authorities."
Popovich added, "We are promoting fraud prevention services with trusted partners such as Perseuss and Ypsilon Net, with the goal of seeing the airline industry as a world leading industry sector for fraud prevention and the fight against organized crime."
This global operation against airline fraudsters is part of Operation CICONIA ALBA, the third EU-wide Joint Action Days taking place within the EU Policy Cycle for organized and serious international crime. The intelligence-led operational actions cover several crime areas whilst focusing on key criminal hotspots and criminal infrastructure in the EU and beyond.