Gardaí investigating a major crime network based in Ireland, and abroad, that has scammed millions of euro from victims of invoice-redirect fraud have arrested three men in Dublin.
Members of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau carried out searches at three properties in Dublin early on Tuesday morning and arrested three men, all in their 20s, and from Nigeria, Ireland and Romania.
The operation was part of Operation Skein, under which there had already been five arrests before the latest searches on Tuesday morning.
The criminals under investigation are effectively all members of a network of people, all with different roles, involved in scamming people and companies by sending them fake invoices.
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.
The Irish man arrested on Tuesday morning was detained on suspicion he had effectively rented out, or sold, his bank account to the gang so they could take receipt of money from the victims of their frauds.
The Nigerian man detained on Tuesday is believed to be close to the main suspect in the case, also from Nigeria, whose home was searched by gardaí earlier this year, though he has not been arrested to date.
Gardaí suspect the Romanian man arrested on Tuesday is effectively a middle manager in the enterprise as he is suspected of recruiting and organising “money mules” – those people who agree to cede control of their bank accounts to the criminals.
The arrests were in Dublin's south inner city, Finglas in north Dublin and in Dublin 8. They men were being held at Kevin Street and Pearse Street Garda stations in central Dublin.
They were being held under section 50 of the Criminal Justice Act which allows for their detention without charge for up to seven days and is used when suspects are being investigated for alleged organised crime.
Operation Skein has intensified in recent months, with three suspects arrested in October, following another two suspects earlier this year as evidence has been uncovered of about €4 million having been moved through bank accounts in Ireland, all linked to invoice-redirect fraud.
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.
In order to carry out a fraud successfully that gang often uses information about both companies that they have obtained through hacking or from the firms’ websites or social media accounts.
When the invoice is paid the money is transferred into a bank account controlled by the fraudsters rather than into the account of the legitimate company owed the money. 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.