Crime bosses setting up garages to launder cash

THE country’s top crime bosses are setting up sham backstreet garages to launder the proceeds of crime and drug trafficking.

The Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) says millions of euro are being laundered in assets such as high-performance cars and motorbikes.

“It’s a new development sought out by criminals in order to avoid the Criminal Assets Bureau finding their assets,” said CAB boss Chief Superintendent Felix McKenna. “It has been identified in a number of cases. Major gangs here in the city are controlling them to conceal their cash.”

Chief Supt McKenna said that in one case they searched a house in Lucan, Co Dublin, and found 15 high-powered vehicles in the side garden of a house.

The person living in the house was arrested after more than 500,000 in cash was found in the spare wheel of his car. The man was on his way to buy drugs in Europe. He is currently serving six years in an English jail for money laundering. This followed an investigation involving British authorities and officers from CAB and the money laundering unit of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation.

The scam was linked to significant seizures of cocaine in Maynooth, Co Kildare, and Lucan at the time.

CAB have since secured a judgement of more than 1.2m against the individual.

“We identified in that case the way they hid their money was to buy high-powered machines and store them in a yard. If they want to transfer it into cash, they just put them up for sale,” said Chief Supt McKenna.

He said these so-called garages were springing up around the suburbs of Dublin.

He said in another recent raid they found cocaine and 14 cars.

The cars had been in a lot for six months and had not been touched or moved.

“It’s one way of money laundering. They’re supposed to be dealing, but all their doing is storing them to hide and raise money. They use a variety of ways to hide their money. They can’t put them into banks, because of banks’ awareness of money laundering.”

Chief Supt McKenna said it was difficult to estimate the amount of money that was going through these garages.

But he pointed to the amount of cash that was needed to purchase the massive quantities of drugs in Europe that had been seized here in the last 12 months.

This cash is not coming out of banks. Instead, criminals are still using the traditional method of carrying the cash in holdalls.

This cash is being generated by means such as these garages.

The Society of the Irish Motor Industry said it was not aware of the development and encouraged CAB and the Revenue Commissioners to go after the people involved.

A spokesman said no licence was required to set up a business selling cars or motorbikes.

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