Level of money-laundering doubles as criminal activity shifts online

Gardaí believe gangs using riskier methods as cash-running outlets hit by Covid

The number of money-laundering crimes recorded in the State more than doubled last year and have increased sixfold in just two years.

Garda sources said the trends reflect the changing face of crime in Ireland, more of which is taking place online, and a culture shift in policing with extra resources being dedicated to white-collar and cyber crime.

Detectives said there was now a major focus on investigating money-laundering by drug dealers and organised crime gangs in addition to their more traditional activities.

Figures obtained by The Irish Times show that 524 money-laundering crimes were recorded last year, up from 234 in 2019. There were just 83 such offences in 2018, and fewer than 50 a year were recorded between 2012 and 2017.


The number of suspicious transaction reports, often related to money-laundering, made by the banks to the Garda and Revenue Commissioners increased to 28,865 last year, a 13 per cent increase on the 2019 total.

Drug dealing

The money involved often represents the proceeds of drug dealing and other organised crimes as well as frauds and even terrorist fundraising.

Gardaí believe some of last year’s increase related to drug gangs being forced to pursue higher-risk money-laundering strategies because the cash businesses they usually run cash through were closed or operating with reduced cashflows due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, the Garda has also reported a significant surge in cyber frauds, which are often based on scam emails and texts being sent to unsuspecting victims. These aim to extract a victim’s bank details or PPS number for the purposes of being used in other crimes.

White-collar crime

Large numbers of people, including school children and college students, are being recruited as “mules” by gangs, with fraudsters using their accounts to receive or pass on money generated through their crimes.

The Government is considering new powers to help An Garda Síochána tackle white-collar and other economic crimes.

A 22-point plan to be implemented over the next 18 months was published last week by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee to bolster powers and resources within agencies that investigate economic crime.

It aims to implement recommendations made last year by former director of public prosecutions James Hamilton, who reviewed Ireland’s preparedness to tackle economic and white-collar crime and concluded the State was “vulnerable” and lagging behind other countries in the area.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times