Fraudsters book flights for crime sprees overseas
FRAUDSTERS are using fake or stolen credit cards to book air flights on the internet for accomplices involved in international organised crime.
The gangs use the bookings to launch crime sprees in another country and return home with their loot.
Flights are also exploited by criminals to facilitate a growing trade in illegal immigration.
Gardai believe they have identified one significant fraudster involved in the internet bookings scam here.
The full extent of the scam, believed to be part of a well-organised criminal operation, has not yet been determined and inquiries are continuing.
But progress in the investigation has been made during a widespread crackdown on airline fraud involving law enforcement agencies from across the world.
The gardai took part in an initiative, co-ordinated by Europol at its headquarters in The Hague. It was run by its head of cybercrime operations and former senior garda, Paul Gillen, and included police forces from 24 EU member states as well as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, the US, Colombia, Brazil, Peru and Ukraine.
Representatives from 33 airlines and major credit card companies also participated in the two-day action.
Police were deployed at 60 airports during the operation, which focused on the bookings with the 33 airlines.
This resulted in the disclosure of 265 suspicious transactions while 113 people were detained for questioning and 70 charged with criminal offences. A number of people were interviewed here but nobody was charged.
Police decided to concentrate on the airline industry as it was a key target for the gangs, who used the bookings to allow them to travel across the world to carry out serious crimes.
Alerts from airlines were investigated by credit card company representatives using their own financial data while the International Air Transport Association provided fraud intelligence from its database.
The biggest number of arrests was made in France and the UK, while Colombian police seized a large haul of cocaine.
Europol director Rob Wainright said that the unprecedented operation clearly showed how crime was evolving on a global scale.