Clondalkin-based woman considered ‘major player’ in Black Axe crime gang quizzed over €10m in bank accounts
Woman suspected of having ‘controlled laundering and money mules’
A woman who is considered a key figure in the so-called Black Axe crime group has been arrested.
The suspect (40), who is based in Clondalkin, west Dublin, remained in custody yesterdayat a garda station.
She was being questioned by fraud squad officers about allegedly directing the activities of a major criminal organisation.
A total of around €10m in fraud-related cash is believed to have passed through several bank accounts she allegedly controlled between 2017 and 2019.
Her arrest is considered one of the most significant yet under Operation Skein, the investigation being run by the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB).
It’s suspected money was used to bulk-buy items such as cars, expensive clothes and machinery for delivery to Nigeria
The woman is understood to have become a significant player in Black Axe through her involvement in organised prostitution in Dublin.
She is suspected of having a male employee of one of the country’s main banks working for her, and allegedly used this person while controlling a major money-mule and money-laundering operation.
This man was previously arrested by the GNECB, and a file is being prepared for the DPP in relation to him.
The woman is alleged to have set up a fake business that was registered to her and that she used to manage money-mule accounts. It is claimed she told gang members to lodge money in those accounts.
“There can be no doubt the suspect in custody right nowis way higher above the food chain than the bank employee who was previously lifted,” a source said. “A total of around €10m is suspected to have gone through accounts linked to her, including almost €7m in her ‘business’ account.”
Detectives have said the suspect has no significant trappings of wealth.
Virtually all the cash that went through the bank accounts has been transferred out of the country in what is known as “trade-based money-laundering”.
This involves using business transactions to try to legitimise the illicit origins of proceeds of crime.
In the woman’s case, it is suspected the money was used to bulk-buy items including cars, expensive clothes, machinery and pharmaceutical equipment from China and Vietnam, among other countries, and then transferred out of her bank accounts.
Sources said these high-value items would arrive on container ships in Nigeria, where Black Axe has its base, and be distributed from there.
The money allegedly came into the woman’s accounts from the proceeds of mainly international but sometimes Irish invoice re-direct fraud, romance scams, rental frauds and other crimes.
Black Axe is considered one of the world’s biggest and most far-reaching crime syndicates.
An Garda Síochana is playing a key role in an international police operation involving Europol and other law enforcement agencies targeting the organisation.
The woman was arrested on Monday, and her period of detention was extended by a judge late on Tuesday night. She can be held for up to seven days.
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