Gardaí move against fraudsters engaged in Covid-19 scam
08 May 2020

Gardaí have discovered evidence that Covid-19 payments are being abused by Dublin-based fraudsters involved in money laundering as a part of a wider European network of criminals.

Two men have been arrested as part of a Garda inquiry into “money-mule” bank accounts. This is the use by criminals of third party, or bogus bank accounts, to conceal and launder money.

During the latest stage of the operation the duo were arrested when two properties were searched in Dublin 15. At both addresses evidence was found showing six people were claiming Covid-19 employment assistance payments, though they were not entitled to do so.

While the investigation relates to other, more serious, crime the Covid-19 payments have been stopped and were now being examined by the Garda.

The two arrests on Thursday formed part of an ongoing Garda inquiry during which 15 arrests have been made and 130 suspects identified.

The Irish-based organised crime gang using the mule accounts has recruited and paid people, sometimes cash-strapped students, in exchange for access to their bank accounts. The fraudsters, who are primarily engaged in online frauds, use the accounts to receive money. By doing so they frustrate Garda efforts to link them to online crime and are also aided in concealing, laundering and moving the proceeds of crime.

The investigation resulting in the latest two arrests in Ireland has established that at least 70 of 130 suspects have opened bank accounts using false names or acting as money mules.

Almost €6 million has been laundered through accounts in Ireland.

Other members of the same criminal gang are under investigation in Germany, Holland, Portugal, Spain, Croatia, Poland and the UK.

Who laundered €22m?

It is estimated the international network has laundered at least €22 million across the European Union over the past five years.

By Conor Lally, The Irish Times, 7 May 2020

Read more at The Irish Times

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