Arrests planned for €15m money-laundering gang

File photo.

Gardaí intend to make arrests and prepare a prosecution file for the DPP in relation to the suspected laundering by a Nigerian criminal network of more than €15m through Irish and international bank accounts.

In a major search operation, more than 100 gardaí yesterday targeted 15 homes in Dublin, Meath, Laois, Louth, and Kildare and removed documentation, computers and other evidence.

The investigation team, led by detectives from the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau, also seized four jeeps.

The GNECB will liaise with the Criminal Assets Bureau regarding the confiscation of the jeeps and private houses they suspect are the proceeds of crime.

As part of the operation, 350 bank accounts in Ireland have been closed by financial institutions on foot of a report to them by the GNECB, and a further 170 accounts abroad have been identified as being part of the fraud.

The bank accounts here received money from fraud scams, before transferring the money out of the jurisdiction across Europe, west Africa and China.

People from the Nigerian and west African communities were recruited to provide bank accounts to help launder the funds, and received a cut for it.

Detective Superintendent Alf Martin of the GNECB said the “complex investigation” covers an 18-month period between 2015 and 2017. He said they were assisted by new technology, the goAML system that they got two years ago, which can pull together and analyse financial data.

He said a lot of information and documentation were removed, including false documentation, such as a fake passport.

All this will be used in putting together a comprehensive file which will ultimately end up with the DPP,” he said.

He said the network targeted was laundering money from frauds conducted by other gangs.

It particularly involved ‘invoice redirection fraud’ which occurs when a criminal impersonates a person or a company to whom a legitimate payment is due.

The criminal contacts the company due to pay the money and deceives them into sending the money to them via a new account. The money is often broken up into different accounts and transferred abroad.

Det Supt Martin said the difficulty for gangs isn’t conducting the actual crime, but cleaning the money through legitimate systems.

He said considerable work had yet to be done in examining the evidence, but he expected arrests to follow.

Yes, there will be arrests and if somebody decides to fly to another jurisdiction, we have the European Arrest Warrant, and protocols with most countries regarding extradition.

Det Supt Martin said that a money-laundering bill going through the Oireachtas will increase their powers to request and share financial information domestically and abroad.

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