GARDAÍ DISCOVERED international organized crime gangs using Ireland as a base for multi-million dollar frauds.
From Kerry to Korea, from Midleton to Moscow, crooks have settled here in a criminal network that spans the four corners of the world.
Detective Chief Superintendent Pat Lordan and Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) sat with The newspaper to discuss the scope and scope of what has become a pandemic scam boom.
The unit is based in Harcourt Square, a stone’s throw from the Irish bases of some of the world’s largest financial institutions – and it has seen a huge increase in demands for its expertise.
From investment fraud to pandemic unemployment payment scam, to the increase in phishing and smishing scams to sophisticated bill forwarding fraud, the garda team is now overwhelmed. of work.
“As someone described to me recently, fraud has grown from a cottage industry to a global organized crime epidemic or pandemic. It’s not just Ireland, it’s all over the world, and Ireland is just as prominent as any other country, ”said Chief Superintendent Lordan.
Chief Superintendent Lordan and Superintendent Cryan are hugely experienced detectives – and they have said they have seen fraud move from skilled fakes to the online world.
Lordan speaks with affable authority, Cryan with thoughtful frankness.
The superintendent of det. Michael Cryan and the Chief Superintendent of Det. Pat Lordan heads the GNECB.
“With technology now there are no more borders, no borders, the money goes from Bandon to Cork and within milliseconds it is in Hong Kong, anywhere in Asia or Europe.
“The money disappeared in a few hours from the account it was sent to, it also moves quickly. Many of these criminal groups have a substantial footprint here in Ireland. Not just in Dublin but across the country, from Donegal to Cork and all of them in between.
“There will be ‘soldiers’ and cells that will work in these areas and be in contact with other people in Europe and Asia,” Lordan said.
For Cryan, the Covid-19 pandemic saw a pandemic mirror of economic crime and he believes the comfort of working from home is partly to blame.
“This is nothing new, fraud has been around for a long, long time, but it has changed drastically and Covid drastically changed it. Everyone worked from home and people trusted the computer in front of them more and more.
“They are in their own homes, they feel safe and they are doing things that they do not have the same supervision. [by managers] they would have at the office, ”he explained.
The two main guards said they were in constant contact with foreign police forces and got along by first name with their counterparts in Russia, Hong Kong, the United States and other areas.
Lordan said financial scams are not just moving out of Ireland, but the accounts, held by so-called money mules, are here.
A money mule is someone, based here in Ireland, who allows a criminal gang to use their account to move money across international borders.
The GNECB now believes, and the arrests have proven it, that financial fraudsters, especially an organized crime group from West Africa, are operating in Ireland.
Cryan said detectives made arrests of lower level money mule account holders and also found senior members of the gang operating in Ireland.
“This is at the highest level of scams. At the bottom of the ladder, you have the money mule, a boy or a girl who lets money launder through their account.
“Then there’s the mule shepherd, which we found in Ireland – they’re the top tier, acting as stewards for the mules. So there is a higher level, the management of operations throughout the region.
“Examining the phones we seized, we found messages from West Africa sent to people in various countries. They send a message to the breeder looking for an account, for example, that can handle two or three thousand euros.
“The shepherd here then sends a message and asks the mule to take the money,” Cryan said.
On some occasions, the gang has been blocked in its activities due to withdrawal limits on accounts in Ireland. The guards were able to freeze the money transfer before it left Ireland.
The Chief Superintendent of Det. Lordan said the guards were using the Egmont group to enlist the help of other police forces.
Lordan said they estimate they have recovered € 25million so far for victims of fraud.
The figures are dramatic: on one occasion, they were able to recover $ 490,000 (€ 410,000) of $ 500,000 loot stolen from an American company based in Ireland with the help of the FBI.
In this incident, the gang had taken control of the company’s email account and waited until they saw a large amount of it before launching their attack using fake emails.
On another occasion, the team received a call from South Korea and were able to recover thousands of euros stashed in a bank account based in County Kerry.
Cryan recalled the statement by law enforcement titan and former FBI chief James Comey, who said that there are two types of businesses: those that have been scammed and those that don’t know it yet.
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Lordan said the gardaí had successfully established links with local police forces around the world through the Egmont group. The organization was formed in Egmont, Canada, and has 166 financial intelligence agencies, including the GNECB, in its contact books around the world.
Likewise, FIU.net is another resource associated with Europol which allows Gardaí to interact with other police financial intelligence units.
“We received € 1.3 million from a company about 500 meters from us here in Dublin city center not too long ago and it was thanks to international cooperation.
“All of our activities require serious global cooperation. This is where we get there, we have to have contacts on the ground.
“We had a meeting last week with the United States and we have regular meetings with other countries that would be regular receivers of money through fraud. They are not doing anything wrong but they are “Ireland” at the time of this fraud.
We have had success stories in collecting money from Hong Kong, Singapore, Russia; but it works both ways. We helped get Kerry money back from South Korea last year amid the Covid lockdown. A poor victim in South Korea was scammed and the money went to Kerry.
“It’s our own doing, nothing to do with Schengen. We go through FIU.net in Europe or in Egmont.
“We have had cases where money has been swindled in Cork and the money has gone to Belgium. We would call Belgium immediately and I know we will get a 100% response from Belgium. They will do what they can to get this money back immediately, ”Lordan said.
One of the police forces with a close relationship with Ireland is the Belgian Politie.
Source: Shutterstock / Alexandros Michailidis
Cryan has revealed that the Operation Skein anti-fraud investigation is a massive investigation, covering almost every border in the world with a significant footprint in Ireland. He is investigating bill forwarding fraud (where bills are redirected and money laundered through bank accounts in Ireland) and has made 15 arrests to date.
Cryan said that many of those involved in the scams, and especially those at the highest level here and abroad, are highly skilled and third-level graduates who have opted for the crime because they are from countries in the world. high unemployment rate.
“These people, operating in Ireland, are highly educated up to a very good university level. But there is no work for them at home, ”he said.
Cryan and his team of detectives used anti-gangland legislation to arrest and question those involved in the fraud.
“It’s bill forwarding fraud and it’s cyber fraud, it’s organized crime at its highest level. Some of the people involved were born here, some have been here for many, many years, some of them only here on a wet week – some of them under false identities.
“3.8 million euros for example came from Lebanon or Syria on an Irish account.
“The money here comes from victims all over the world. There is not a country in the world where there were no injuries. More than 15 million euros stolen from companies in Chile, Russia, China, Palestine and the messages on the phones come from West Africa, ”he concluded.