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Global air ticket fraud sweep nets 118 arrests

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More than 100 people were arrested worldwide this week after an investigation spanning 45 countries into the use of stolen credit cards to buy plane tickets, European police agency Europol said on Friday.

The probe, run from Europol's headquarters in The Hague as well as from Singapore and Bogota, Colombia, was aimed at curbing a type of crime that costs the airline industry $1 billion a year.

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In some cases, evidence was found linking the credit card fraud to other serious crimes including drug and human trafficking, Europol said.

"It is clear to the airlines that they are up against organized crime in this fight," said Meta Backman of the European Airlines Fraud Prevention Group in a statement.

At least 281 suspicious transactions were identified and 118 people arrested after the two-day sweep, which took place at 80 airports across the world and encompassed 60 airlines.

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Officials from airlines, credit card companies and police officers were involved in the probe, allowing airlines quickly to flag suspicious transactions to the card companies. Arrests were then made by police officers waiting at major hub airports.