Over €350,000 stolen from Maynooth University in money-laundering operation
Man (24) to be sentenced in March after €18,100 was transferred to his account
Maynooth University was left at a total loss of €362,810, the court heard. Photograph: Eric Luke
A 24-year-old man will be sentenced later as part of an investigation into a major money-laundering operation during which over €350,000 was stolen from Maynooth University.
At a sentence hearing on Friday, the court heard that in the summer of 2015, university staff engaged the construction firm Rhatigans to carry out development work on campus.
Someone claiming to be from Rhatigans phoned the university accounts department and said the company’s account details had changed, so university staff duly paid the money they owed the contractor into this new account.
When Rhatigans sought payment for their work, it emerged that the university had been given a fraudulent account number into which it had unwittingly transferred a total of €362,810.
Detective Garda Michael Kilfeather from the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement said this fraudulent bank account was not in the name of the accused, but under a different name.
The detective said the money was then transferred via 15 transactions to multiple bank accounts, one of which belonged to the accused, Gamiya Muftau.
Muftau pleaded guilty to possessing €18,100 as the proceeds of crime at AIB, Capel Street, on August 25th 2015.
The university was left at a total loss of €362,810. A victim impact statement on behalf of Maynooth University was handed in to court but was not read aloud.
Det Gda Kilfeather told Gráinne O’Neill BL, prosecuting, that the accused was arrested in December 2016 and gave two false addresses for himself before eventually admitting that he was squatting.
Muftauf met gardaí by appointment and said he was a full-time student and had opened his bank account in 2009 or 2010. He said a friend of his asked him to use his bank account to receive a sum of money, but didn’t say what the money was for.
Muftau said he was “surprised” when he checked his account and saw the sum of €18,100 there. He said he went to the bank to withdraw the money for his friend, but the bank refused and said they needed to investigate.
Muftau told gardaí that at that stage he began to be suspicious about where the money had come from. He told gardaí that he was sorry, that he hadn’t realised the money was stolen and would not have let the money be transferred into his account if he had known this.
He has seven previous convictions, six of which are for road traffic offences and one for possession of a false driving licence.
Det Kilfeather agreed with Briain Larkin BL, defending, that the accused did not access any of the money and had accepted he had been “reckless” in accepting it.
Mr Larkin said Muftau had come to Ireland alone from Africa at the age of 14 under great hardship, and had been accepted under the Separated Child Asylum Scheme. He said Muftau had done very well in his Leaving Cert and was offered a scholarship to Tallaght Institute of Technology which he accepted.
Mr Larkin said that when Muftau turned 18 he was transferred to the adult asylum scheme and was moved to hostel accommodation, which he left and is now squatting with various friends around the country.
Det Kilfeather agreed that Muftau had submitted a very early plea of guilty which had been of material benefit to investigating gardaí.
Judge Melanie Greally said that notwithstanding the fact that Muftau had pleaded guilty by way of recklessness, it “must have been clear” that use of his bank account for such a large sum must have led him to believe that the money was of criminal origin.
The judge ordered a probation report and adjourned sentencing until March 14th next.