News Irish News

Tuesday 20 August 2019

International gang laundered €1.5m using Irish accounts

Seized: Some of the gear found by gardaí in their raids
Seized: Some of the gear found by gardaí in their raids

Ken Foy

Fraud squad detectives have arrested a member of a gang which has made millions from ripping off customers of Airbnb and other accommodation providers.

In dawn raids yesterday, they arrested the man whose gang is suspected of laundering more than €1.5m in 90 separate bank accounts across the country.

It is suspected to have made more than €3m in total this year from the accommodation frauds and other bogus online sales.

The suspect, who is a Romanian national aged in his 30s, remained in custody yesterday at Coolock garda station in Dublin last night, where he was being quizzed under anti-gangland legislation.

Officers carried out a number of early morning searches in the Artane area of the capital's northside.

"False passports, details of false bank accounts, equipment including laptops, phones, prints, laminators which are suspected of use in the manufacture of these false passports, along with an amount of cash, were seized," a Garda spokeswoman said yesterday.

The Irish Independent can reveal the gang at the centre of the lengthy investigation by the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) is suspected of carrying out thousands of organised frauds in other EU countries and then using Irish financial institutions to launder the cash.

The estimated laundered €1.5m has been taken by the criminals from bank accounts and cannot be retrieved by gardaí.

"Primarily this gang have been involved in two different types of organised fraud in Europe," a senior source said.

"One of the scams has targeted customers of Airbnb and many other accommodation providers all across Europe.

"Customers have been duped into paying money for bogus accommodation. They think they are renting genuine accommodation but in fact the money is being diverted to the organised criminal gang who have set up false websites.

"As soon as the cash goes into the gang's bank account, it is removed from it by the criminals."

Last May, gardaí warned cyber criminals were using phishing to send fake GDPR notices to Airbnb customers asking them to confirm log-in or personal information via online links.

This, the notices said, was so they could continue to use the service being provided.

The criminals then had access to the financial details of the Airbnb customers, but this type of fraud was not the focus of this week's probe.

When contacted, an Airbnb spokeswoman told the Irish Independent the company had not been directly contacted by gardaí.

"Airbnb will co-operate fully with gardaí on any enquiries in relation to this matter, once contacted," she said.

Gardaí say the other means the gang is using to make huge money is bogus online sales.

This involves them setting up fake websites to sell high-end items such as vehicles and jewellery.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News