Garda fraud experts have made a third arrest as part of a major investigation into a fraudulent operation worth an estimated €29m run by an organised crime gang. Gardaí believe they are making “significant progress” in their investigation, which centres around a gang boss operating on both sides of the border.
The operation is being led by the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau. Over the years, agencies involved in the investigation also included the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, the Revenue Commissioners, the PSNI, the British National Crime Agency, and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs Agency.
The GNECB investigation began in September 2016 into what is known as VAT carousel fraud, involving systematic defrauding of the VAT system through bogus trade between jurisdictions.
A Garda statement said:
Funds were identified moving through bank accounts across a range of financial institutions linked to various companies in Ireland and Northern Ireland, under the control of an organised crime group operating in the border region. Large sums of money were subsequently transferred to bank accounts in a number of foreign jurisdictions.
The statement added: “VAT carousels involve more than one jurisdiction and numerous layers to facilitate the alleged movement of goods which in turn leads to the State being defrauded of VAT. This type of fraud involves supplier companies, VAT-registered entities, customer companies, and transport companies.”
The third person arrested is a man described as a “facilitator” for the gang. He was detained at Dundalk Garda Station and released without charge.
In September 2017, 15 properties, both commercial and residential, were searched across four provinces by the GNECB, and a large volume of digital and documentary evidence was seized. In May 2019, a woman was arrested as part of this investigation in Co Louth and, in August, a man was arrested.