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Ponzi fraud victims get €2.7m after major cash haul by CAB

A LARGE cash haul recovered by the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) from the proceeds of a Ponzi or pyramid investment scheme was later paid out as part-compensation to the victims of the fraud.

The bureau used its legislation to secure a court warrant, allowing its officers to hand over €2,682,000 to a liquidator to be distributed to the victims.

The money was seized by CAB after it had frozen the contents of a number of bank accounts, which amounted to almost half of the cash lost by investors.

A Ponzi scheme is a criminal fraud that pays returns to investors from their own money or cash paid by subsequent investors, rather than from profits earned by those running the operation.

The money was recovered following a lengthy investigation into the activities of a Donegal criminal, who organised the investment scheme.

Details of the case are revealed in CAB's latest annual report, which covered 2011 and was published yesterday by Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

In a separate proceeds-of-crime case, the bureau forwarded £300,000 to the British courts and tribunals service following a joint investigation with UK police. These payments were on top of a further €2.7m allocated to the Exchequer following successful proceeds-of-crime actions.

During 2011, the bureau focused in particular on cases that were nearing a seven-year time limit and the €2.7m was collected from a total of 23 cases.

Six new cases were instigated, mainly against suspected drug traffickers. The other targets included those suspected of being involved in fraud offences and bogus investment as well as the profits generated from illicit trade in counterfeit fuel laundering and cigarette smuggling.

Using its Revenue powers, CAB raised another €3.8m from uncollected taxes and interest and seized a Range Rover vehicle, worth €82,000, which was given to the State.

Bureau officials took action against 120 people, who were illegally claiming social welfare benefits and those claims were subsequently either reduced or cancelled, resulting in a saving to the State of €616,500, while €454,000 in overpaid social welfare benefits was recovered.

CAB activity led to a rise in the number of investigations undertaken in co-operation with international agencies and this put the spotlight on proceeds derived from foreign crime as well as proceeds that had been lodged overseas.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said last night that the important and pioneering work carried out by the bureau continued to lead the way in the dismantling of criminal networks and the recouping of money for the Exchequer.

This work could not be completed without the support of the public, he said.

Irish Independent