Sunday 19 January 2020

Gardaí probe bid by criminals to obtain mortgages to launder money

False bank statements and pay slips part of scam

Gardai File Picture
Gardai File Picture
Gardaí are investigating attempts by criminals to fraudulently obtain mortgages for houses. Stock picture
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Gardaí are investigating attempts by criminals to fraudulently obtain mortgages for houses.

The scam is thought to involve drug-dealing gangs attempting to launder money and get hold of property assets.

A number of banks, including AIB, Permanent TSB and KBC Bank, are understood to be victims of the attempted fraud.

The fake mortgage applications are a bid by criminals to launder money that has been earned illegally.

The criminals trying to get the mortgages are forging bank statements and pay slips appearing to show they have legitimate jobs, when in fact they deal purely in cash and pay no tax.

If they can get a mortgage, the criminals will be able to launder illegally earned money every month for years by making the home-loan repayments in cash.

They also obtain an asset, helping them to claim that they are legitimate citizens.

Cases have emerged in north County Dublin, where high-quality forgeries of bank statements and false pay slips have been used in an attempt to get approvals for mortgages.

A Garda press office spokesperson said in reply to an email request for information: "Gardaí in Swords are investigating a small number of separate cases involving attempts by individuals to obtain mortgages on the strength of alleged bogus documentation. The investigations are ongoing.

"Anyone with specific information or who may be in a position to advance investigations relating to this type of fraudulent activity is asked to contact their local garda station."

It is understood the investigations are at an early stage and gardaí are not yet sure if any of the applicants have links with organised criminal activity.

The Irish Independent has seen some of the fake documents, including a print-out of AIB statements that mortgage experts said looked highly credible.

Permanent TSB had no comment, but it is understood it is probing the fabrication of its bank statements to create a false financial background for mortgage applicants for other banks.

State-owned AIB insisted it has processes in place to detect fraud.

It said: "AIB has a robust system of checks and balances in place in order to protect both the bank and the borrower when mortgage applications are being processed.

"We also have systems which enable us to identify any unusual behaviour on mortgage accounts after the mortgage has been drawn down.''

A spokeswoman for KBC Bank had no comment, although it is understood that attempts have been made to obtain mortgages from it under false pretences.

One broker familiar with the scam said fake pay slips and bank statements were of a very high quality.

"They are about as good as the real thing. They would even fool people who look at this type of stuff professionally for a living."

The false documents are used to produce an impression that the dodgy house buyer has a savings history and has been putting money aside for long enough to build up a deposit to satisfy mortgage lending rules, the broker, who did not want to be named, said.

"This is a way for someone not working in the official economy, who would never be able to buy a property legitimately, to buy a home and pay down a mortgage.

"This is a way of integrating people, who are not involved in the official economy, into the financial system," the broker said.

These people could buy for cash, but they fear that would raise the suspicions of the authorities, he added.

Irish Independent

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