A major international crime gang has been caught claiming the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP).
Detectives, backed by armed gardaí, carried out a number of searches on Wednesday and seized documents relating to the alleged fraud.
As the investigation is described as “continuing”, details are scant at this stage.
But the discovery of the gang’s activities came as a result of a massive joint operation involving Department of Social Protection officials, gardaí seconded to the Department of Social Protection, Customs and Excise officials, and gardaí based in Limerick and Clare.
Backing up detectives on the day were the Armed Support Unit and the Garda Dog Unit.
A garda spokesperson said the Department of Social Protection has engaged with An Garda Síochána investigating multiple PUP fraud offences since May.
“The investigation has identified a suspected international organised crime group comprising of persons based in Ireland and other jurisdictions who have engaged in both identity and fraud offences to obtain PUP monies,” they said.
"A total of 28 individuals were identified as being active participants.
“Items including documentation and related material have been seized and are currently being examined.
"The investigation is continuing.”
The revelation that a major crime gang is behind fraudulent PUPs is the latest twist on the short lifetime of this controversial payment.
Officials from the Department of Social Protection have been conducting regular inspections on passengers travelling through airports and ports.
Up until the end of July, some 2,500 recipients had their payments stopped as a result.