Reports of money laundering jump 40% in two years

There has been a 40% jump in the number of suspicious financial transactions reported to the authorities in the last two years, according to Ireland’s first money-laundering report.

The National Risk Assessment for Ireland also said that 32 prosecutions for money laundering were taken between 2011 and 2015.

The document said the retail banking sector, money remittance services, and bureaux de change are deemed to be “high risk” areas for money laundering, and that casinos, high-value dealers as well as the legal and accountancy sectors are categorised as “medium to high” risk sectors.

The report cited previously published international estimates that there were around 40 organised crime groups (OCGs) in Ireland, of which at least nine had international links.

The document, published jointly by the departments of justice and finance, said there has been a “significant increase” in the number of suspicious transaction reports (STRs) in recent years. They increased from 15,200 in 2013, to 18,300 in 2014 and to 21,700 in 2015.

These reports, from financial institutions and designated professionals, are sent to both Gardaí and Revenue, in a bid to flag potential money laundering.

The Director of Public Prosecutions took 32 prosecutions for money laundering between 2011 and 2015. Of these, 29 were on indictment, with 17 convictions. The remaining 12 cases are outstanding. Three summary prosecutions resulted in acquittals.

In addition to Irish OCGs, it said foreign crime networks are also operating here with increased collaboration between the two.

It said drug offences pose the “most significant threat” of money laundering. It said Ireland is “vulnerable” as an entry point to the EU.

On other crimes, it said:

  • Tobacco smuggling represents “a significant and increasing threat” of money laundering, with drug trafficking groups also involved in the trade.
  • Significant numbers of foreign and domestic OCGs are making “substantial sums of money” from prostitution, and use cash mules and extended family to launder their money.
  • Foreign OCGs are heavily involved in metal theft and there is an emerging trade in the theft of high-end vehicles using sophisticated technology to defeat “keyless” cars.
  • Cybercrime is an “emerging and fast developing” category of criminal activity affecting Ireland.
  • There is a “growing threat” from human trafficking, with criminals often using bank accounts of victims to launder money.

The report highlighted risks with money remittance and bureaux de change services, which facilitate anonymous transactions.

It raised concerns regarding fund administrators, asset managers and trusts, which are characterised by complex legal structures and difficulties in establishing the beneficial owners of accounts and investments.


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