14 arrested in £15m money laundering probe

Thirteen men and a woman have been arrested by revenue and customs officers investigating a suspected £15m (€18m) money laundering racket by an organised crime gang.

One of the men was detained in London. Nine men and the woman were held in Belfast, with the three other men arrested in counties Derry, Armagh, and Antrim.

The investigation is connected to income tax and VAT fraud linked to the construction industry.

The HMRC, the British revenue, described the raids as the largest operation of its kind ever undertaken in Northern Ireland.

Assisted by officers from the PSNI, HMRC staff searched 31 business and residential properties in Belfast, Co Armagh, Co Antrim and Co Derry.

In co-ordinated activity in Stoke Newington in London, one man was arrested after two businesses and one private address were raided by HMRC accompanied by officers from the Metropolitan Police.

HMRC said an organised crime gang is believed to have created a chain of companies, claiming to sub-contract labour for construction projects, with the intent of disappearing before any tax was paid.

Business records, cash and computer equipment were seized during the operation.

John Whiting of HMRC said: “This investigation, codenamed Operation Concentric, is targeting a suspected organised crime gang involved in sophisticated multimillion-pound income tax and VAT frauds in the construction industry, and the associated laundering of the criminal profits.

“The frauds are believed to have resulted in the theft of millions of pounds of public revenue.”

The 14 were being interviewed by HMRC officers and investigations were continuing.


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