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Fraud: Arrests made following a joint Gardaí and Interpol operation

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Gardaí and Interpol conducted a joint investigation into the sending of fraudulent e-mails and money laundering.

The crackdown, in 14 countries on four continents, targets a group known as the “Black Axe” and other related West African organized crime groups.

Gardaí said on Friday nine premises were raided in Dublin and Clare; several arrests were made.

Eleven people were arrested and detained under organized crime legislation, and 23 people were arrested for the purpose of being charged.

There were also 62 money laundering charges and three organized crime offences.

Arrests on charges were made by local districts including Tallaght, Tralee, Portlaoise, Navan, Limerick, Cork and Waterford.

Operation Jackal

Led by the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB), this period of action began in mid-August.

Operation Jackal marks the first time that Interpol has coordinated a global operation specifically against Black Axe, which it says is “rapidly becoming a major security threat around the world”.

Black Ax and similar groups are responsible for the majority of financial cyber scams around the world, as well as many other serious crimes.

In South Africa alone, two suspects arrested a fortnight ago were wanted for online scams that snatched 1.8 million dollars (1.85 million euros) from the victims.

Whitening across Ireland

This investigation began with a request for assistance from an EU country in early 2020, after €1.1 million was stolen in an email fraud and laundered through Asia .

The fake emails came from Ireland.

Electronic devices seized during the investigation indicated, for the first time, that this criminal organization operated from Ireland and did not just launder here.

To date, investigations can link more than 40 million euros to theft and money laundering.

silver mules

Gardaí claims that the bank accounts used to launder this money belong to Irish residents, who are recruited as money mules by so-called “mule herders”.

Financial mules are recruited through social networks or through friends.

It can also see young people with drug debt paying off their debts by allowing their accounts to be used.

According to Gardaí, financial mules are also found in other EU countries and flown to Ireland, where they are given false documents to open accounts and then hand over the accounts to the recruiter.

Italian, British, Portuguese, Maltese, Dutch and Belgian IDs have been identified as being used in this way.

Many documents are fake, but genuine documents have also been recovered.

“Big increases”

Gardaí says 13 different people from a specific country flew to Ireland between 2018 and 2020 and opened accounts through which more than €2 million were laundered.

New trends also involve Irish people being flown to other EU countries, being given false documents and being asked to open accounts which are then used to launder funds.

The number of Irish online bank accounts used to launder the proceeds of fraud in Eastern and Central Europe has also “increased dramatically”, adds Gardaí.

An ongoing investigation linked to Operation Jackal, called Operation Skein, has arrested 195 people for money laundering offenses and 69 people under organized crime laws to date – with 135 people charged.

Main image: A Garda Síochána holds an event detailing law enforcement activities as part of Operation Jackal. Photo by: Facebook/An Garda Síochána