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College swindled out of €360,000 after one phone call, court hears

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A 24-year-old man is to be sentenced as part of an investigation into a major money-laundering operation during which more than €360,000 was stolen from Maynooth University.

Gamiya Muftau, formerly of Whitestown Way in Tallaght, Dublin, is one of several people currently before Dublin Circuit Criminal Court in relation to the offence.

The court heard yesterday that, in the summer of 2015, university staff engaged the construction firm Rhatigans to carry out development work on the campus.

Someone claiming to be from Rhatigans phoned the university accounts department and said the company's account details had changed, so university staff duly paid the money they owed the contractor into this new account.

When Rhatigans sought payment for its work, it emerged the university had been given a fraudulent account number into which it had unwittingly transferred a total of €362,810.

Detective Garda Michael Kilfeather, from the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, said this fraudulent bank account was not in the name of the accused, but under a different name. The detective said the money was then transferred via 15 transactions to multiple bank accounts, one of which belonged to the accused, Gamiya Muftau.

Muftau pleaded guilty to possessing €18,100 as the proceeds of crime at AIB, Capel Street, on August 25, 2015. The university was left at a total loss of €362,810.

A victim impact statement on behalf of Maynooth University was handed in to court but not read aloud.

Det Gda Kilfeather told Gráinne O'Neill BL, prosecuting, that the accused was arrested in December 2016 and gave two false addresses for himself before admitting that he was squatting.

Muftau met gardaí by appointment and said he was a full-time student and had opened his bank account in 2009 or 2010. He said a friend of his asked him to use his bank account to receive a sum of money, but didn't say what the money was for.

Muftau said he was "surprised" when he checked his account and saw the sum of €18,100 there. He said he went to the bank to withdraw the money for his friend, but the bank refused.

Muftau told gardaí that at that stage he began to be suspicious about where the money had come from. He told gardaí he hadn't realised the money was stolen.

He has seven previous convictions, six of which were for road traffic offences and one for possession of a false driving licence.

Det Kilfeather agreed with Briain Larkin BL, defending, that the accused had been "reckless".

Mr Larkin said Muftau had come to Ireland alone from Africa at the age of 14 under great hardship.

The judge adjourned sentencing until March 14.

Irish Independent