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nationwide probe Five men arrested in operation targeting suspected multi-million euro fraud

These are the latest arrests as part of the nationwide probe after a 29-year-old suspected money mule was arrested last week

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Four Romanian nationals and a Nigerian are in garda custody after searches this morning in counties Cork, Tipperary and Roscommon. Stock photo: PA

Four Romanian nationals and a Nigerian are in garda custody after searches this morning in counties Cork, Tipperary and Roscommon. Stock photo: PA

Four Romanian nationals and a Nigerian are in garda custody after searches this morning in counties Cork, Tipperary and Roscommon. Stock photo: PA

Five men were arrested today after fraud squad detectives established that around €300,000 has passed through bank accounts controlled by a Romanian gang operating in this country with most of the cash not being recovered.

The arrests were made as part of Operation BOXPLOT which is part of a wider massive money laundering investigation codenamed Operation SKEIN.

Four Romanian nationals and a Nigerian man are in garda custody after searches this morning in counties Cork, Tipperary and Roscommon.

The operation was carried out by the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) meaning that 20 people many of whom are money mules have been arrested as part of the probe which has been ongoing for almost a year.

The Romanian nationals who are in custody are suspected of involvement in a spate of organised crime throughout Co Cork and beyond including organised begging, thefts and exchange scams from their bases in the Fermoy area.

A female associate of the arrested men was arrested in Co Tipperary late last year when she attempted to withdraw €31,000 from a bank account which was the suspected of proceeds of an invoice redirect fraud in which a Hungarian company was targeted by criminals based in Ireland.

Senior sources say that the arrest this morning of the Nigerian national is considered “highly significant” as he has close links to the main garda target of the operation targeting the multi-million euro fraud.

“What is unusual about this case is that it has shown that Romanian and Nigerian crime gangs are working together in Ireland in relation to a huge money laundering conspiracy,” a senior source said.

These are the latest arrests as part of the nationwide probe after a 29-year-old suspected money mule was arrested last week and questioned at Kevin Street Garda Station before being released without charge.

Operation SKEIN which is a major investigation into an Irish based gang criminal organisation who have been using Irish bank accounts to store money stolen from companies in “every EU country, Russia, Canada, China, African countries and the US” in invoice redirect fraud.

While 17 arrests have now been so far directly as part of Operation SKEIN, the GNECB have identified 90 suspects resident in Ireland and are satisfied that €10 million has been laundered through Irish bank accounts.

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Invoice redirection fraud happens when a person or a business fall prey to requests, purporting to emanate from trusted suppliers or service providers, into believing that a beneficiary’s bank account details have been changed.

As a result, funds that are due to be paid out are transferred to a fraudulent account known as a money mule account.

Money mule accounts are usually held by unconnected third parties, who are approached by recruiters and asked to allow their accounts be used for a transaction in exchange for a fee of a few hundred euro.

“A number of planned searches were carried out in Cork, Tipperary and Roscommon today," a Garda spokesperson said.

“Four men (ranging in age from 23 years to 35 years) were arrested for offences pursuant to Section 72, Criminal Justice Act, 2006.

“They are currently detained at Middleton, Fermoy, Mallow and Tipperary Garda stations under Section 50, Criminal Justice Act, 2007.

“Four of the arrests this morning were made under Operation BOXPLOT, which targets a Criminal Organisation based in the North Cork area, that is believed to be laundering the proceeds of international invoice re-direct (BEC) fraud through bank accounts in Ireland,” she explained.

Gardai later confirmed a fifth person had been arrested as part of Operation Boxplot.

"A male (20s) was arrested in Co Westmeath earlier today for an offence pursuant to Section 72 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006," a spokesperson said.

"He is currently detained under Section 50 of the Criminal Justice Act, 2007 in Castlerea Garda Station. He can be detained for up to seven days."

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