Probe uncovers taxi licence scam involving 180 non-EU nationals
Gardaí have uncovered evidence of a major scam in which 180 non-EU nationals obtained taxi licences using fraudulent PSV applications despite having no legal status in this country.
The Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) searched several residential addresses across Dublin where it is suspected false documentation, including SPSV applications, are being produced as part of a massive immigration fraud.
The day of action was part of Operation Vantage, a four year-long enquiry by GNIB that has uncovered widespread immigration fraud which is generating millions for organised crime gangs.
The taxi scam came to light after four taxi drivers, all non-EU nationals, were discovered driving taxis with licences obtained through fraudulent SPSV licence applications.
Two of the drivers have been deported and the others are awaiting deportation. In one case an illegal immigrant from the Indian sub-continent, who had no qualifications to drive a taxi, was discovered to be using the identity of another non-EU national who had obtained EU Treaty rights.
Officials from the Carriage Office, the National Transport Authority and the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) are also involved in the ongoing operation, which has so far identified 180 individuals whose immigration status is being investigated by GNIB.
However, sources say that the operation, which is headed by GNIB boss Detective Chief Superintendent Dave Dowling, is in its early stages and is expected the trawl will reveal the involvement of "possibly many more" individuals.
A major part of the enquiry will focus on how these individuals managed to get through the taxi licensing system and obtain SPSV driver licences, which permits the holder to drive a taxi, hackney or limousine.
The investigation raises serious questions surrounding the integrity of the system, which is designed to ensure strict standards by which passengers are transported by fully qualified drivers.
It is understood that officers uncovered a significant amount of evidence in the searches, which took place at addresses in Dublin's north inner city, Lucan and Palmerstown.
In a statement released last night, Fianna Fáil's spokesperson on transport Robert Troy said this issue exposes a "severe weakness" in the processing of taxi licences, and criticised the role of the National Transport Authority. The NTA has since clarified that An Garda Siochana oversee the licensing system.