Two-year sentence for man with low-level role in moneylaundering
Maynooth University unwittingly transferred over €360,000 to fraudulent account
Gamiya Muftau said he was sorry and had not realised the money was stolen
A man has received a two-year sentence for his role in a major money-laundering operation during which over €360,000 was stolen from Maynooth University.
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 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 Muftau’s name.
The detective said the money was then transferred via 15 transactions to multiple bank accounts, one of which belonged to Muftau.
Muftau pleaded guilty to possessing €18,100 as the proceeds of crime at AIB, Capel Street, on August 25th, 2015.
A victim impact statement on behalf of Maynooth University was handed in to court but was not read aloud.
Earlier, Det Gda Kilfeather told Gráinne O’Neill BL, prosecuting, that Muftau was arrested in December 2016 and gave two false addresses for himself before eventually admitting he was squatting.
Mutauf 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.
On Thursday, Judge Melanie Greally accepted Muftau had been operating at a low level in the enterprise. She further accepted he allowed his bank account to be used “largely as a favour” to another person in the hope of some small payment.
She said Muftau had “exercised extremely poor judgment”. She gave him credit for his guilty plea and co-operation and noted he has been engaging well in custody while awaiting sentence. He has been in custody since November 1st, 2018.
She imposed a two-year sentence with the balance to be suspended for 18 months from Thursday. The judge ordered that Muftau undergo 12-month post-release supervision with a focus on his accommodation needs and getting back into education.
She commented that a financial blow on the scale of the overall transaction would be one no third-level institution could take without having implications for staff and students.
Muftau had told gardaí that he began to be suspicious about where the money had come from. He said 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 Brian Lindsay BL, defending, that Muftau did not access any of the money and had accepted that he had been “reckless” in accepting it.
Mr Lindsay 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 Lindsay said that when Muftau turned 18 he was transferred to the adult asylum scheme and was moved to hostel accommodation, which he left to squat 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.