A 40-year-old man was arrested in Cork – as part of a cybercrime investigation by An Garda Síochána in Ireland and the FBI in America – and he was charged with six counts, including money laundering on Friday.
Suleman Mazhar of Fort Hill, Moneygourney, Douglas, Cork, was arrested by Sergeant Wesley Kenny who objected to bail being granted to the accused.
Sgt Kenny said it was believed by the prosecution that if the accused was released on bail he would go directly to a computer, close down websites and effectively destroy evidence being gathered against him.
Joseph Cuddigan, solicitor, said the accused would agree to any bail conditions, including staying off the internet and not using any computer or related device.
Judge Alec Gabbett refused bail and remanded the accused man in custody for one week. He will appear again at Cork District Court on May 20 by video link from prison.
The accused, who is from Pakistan, came to Ireland in 2002 and has Irish citizenship and an Irish passport. He said he was unemployed but had worked in finance and in computers, including a period with PayPal where he said he was in the compliance department.
The charges alleged that he had a smart card reader to make false financial instruments at a house at Railway Street, Passage West, County Cork, that he had 52 plastic cards embedded with smart chips and magnetic strips and a final charge of alleged money-laundering between August 2020 and July 2021.
Sgt Kenny alleged that their investigation into alleged transfers of crypto-currency had seen the accused allegedly involved in over 2,000 transactions involving $346,000 over a one-year period.
“We suspect he has sold a lot of stuff online,” Sgt. Kenny said. He also said the defendant had used several different addresses, some of which he was not living it.
“We believe he is operating a number of illegal sites online. If given bail, he can go online and destroy evidence. He has a large amount of funds. I believe he would be a flight risk and leave the jurisdiction,” Sgt. Kenny said.
Gardaí carried out a test purchase of a driver’s licence offered by a website and paid for it. The money they paid was seen to go into the defendant’s bank account. Mr Cuddigan, solicitor, asked if any driver’s licence was sent out. Sgt Kenny said none was sent.
Judge Gabbett was told that enquiries by the FBI in America and An Garda Síochána in Ireland were ongoing in the case. The accused gave evidence of buying five bitcoins at €109 each and their value going to a high of €62,000 each.
He said he was on Jobseekers Allowance and would turn up for his case if granted bail.