Five people in their late teens and early 20s have been arrested in Co Longford as part of a Garda operation targeting financial fraud that is being carried out by an international crime group.
The four men and one woman were arrested on on Tuesday after gardaí from Longford and the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) carried out five searches in the county.
The group was detained under Section 50 of the Criminal Justice Act 2007 at Longford, Mullingar and Granard Garda stations on suspicion of acting as and recruiting money mules and laundering money for a criminal organisation. The five people can be detained for up to seven days.
Their detention brings to 78 the number of people arrested in connection with Operation Skein - a GNECB investigation into worldwide invoice-redirect fraud and the subsequent laundering of the proceeds of these crime through bank accounts in Ireland.
The criminal group involved in this fraud have stolen more than €15.5 million and laundered close to €14 million in Ireland, according to a Garda statement.
Gardaí believe the scam is led by Nigerian criminals, based in Ireland and abroad, with many Italian and Romanian suspects also having been identified during the investigation.
Invoice-redirect fraud involves crime gangs tricking companies into lodging money into accounts controlled by the criminals. They send invoices to companies purporting to come from one of the targeted companies’ trading partners.
Fraudsters gain control of accounts by opening them under false identities or paying the account holder for access to their account for the purposes of receiving and transferring money.
Of the 78 arrests, some have been convicted while others remain before the courts charged with offences. Files are being prepared by the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Garda Youth Division Bureau regarding the remaining cases are more arrests are expected to be carried out, the Garda said.
The GNECB said it would continue to target members of the criminal organisation associated with this money laundering by working with local districts and international police forces through Eurojust, Europol and Interpol.