Two Irish nationals have been arrested in connection with a major multi-million euro investment scam on Australia's Gold Coast.
It's understood an alleged organised crime syndicate known as the 'Irish Boys' have scammed at least €2.6m from unsuspecting victims in an elaborate "boiler room" fraud ring over the past 18 months.
Four people have been arrested, including the two Irish nationals, in connection with the scam.
Queensland's Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) along with police swooped on the men who they say are "ringleaders" yesterday.
They are being held in custody on "serious fraud charges" after raids on Gold Coast offices connected to the scheme.
Local media reports suggest the gang may have swindled more than €7m from the scam that offered bogus investment opportunities to people over the phone.
The alleged scheme is believed to be similar to that used by infamous fraudster Jordan Belfort, whose exploits were immortalised by Leonardo DiCaprio in the hit movie 'The Wolf Of Wall Street'.
The CCC said the alleged scam sold "fraudulent computer software and managed investment schemes" to at least 150 victims across Australia. They added that they expected "many more" victims to come forward.
It is claimed that the gang offered victims large returns for investing in its trading software, which they said was able to predict moves in the commodity markets and was sold to members of the public using high-pressure cold-calling methods.
It is believed the group targeted elderly and vulnerable members of the public - who had filled in bogus competition forms at fast food outlets and supermarkets.
The CCC's executive director of crime Michael Scott said the 'Irish Boys' also offered fake betting software. The software allegedly cost anywhere from €6,000 to €26,000 and promised investors a foolproof way of beating the bookies.
"The sales pitch is that you bet on both sides of a two-sided sporting contest and the mathematical theory is that you will, necessarily, win substantial monies on that contest," Mr Scott said. "That's the theory. In practice, it simply doesn't work. Bookmakers don't take those kind of bets."
The alleged syndicate employed at least 45 people in their call centres, one of which was located in a high-rise office building in Surfers Paradise, just south of Brisbane.
One of the "ringleaders" arrested is an Irish-born man, who was a "principal target" of the joint investigation, the CCC confirmed. He was apprehended with the others by CCC officers and police during a series of dawn raids yesterday.
The raids included two allegedly active "boiler room" call centres, at Surfers Paradise and Bundall, from which victims received unsolicited phone calls targeting them with the bogus investment offers.
Officers are investigating if the money made by the gang remained in Australia or if it was transferred to accounts overseas.
The Gold Coast, and the suburb of Bundall, in particular, has emerged as the centre of "boiler room" fraud in Australia, which the Australian Crime Commission says had pulled in at least AUS$113m (€75m) from victims up to 2012.
The alleged managers of the scam, men aged 36, 34, 33 and 32, will be formally charged with fraud, the CCC said.
Police say that the companies behind this syndicate used a number of techniques to deceive people.
"Their methods include the use of virtual offices, false identities, fake receptionists and fake testimonials," said a police statement.