Gardaí have arrested two people suspected of being linked to an international crime gang after finding a haul of luxury goods bought during a €30,000 spending spree in Dublin.
Detectives believe they have now identified a layer of middle management within the gang, which is based in Ireland.
A man and a woman have been arrested and are in custody in Dublin Garda stations.
When the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau searched two properties in Dublin 9 and Dublin 12 on Wednesday they found financial documents and electronic devices, including phones, they believe are linked to the frauds.
Gardaí also found a number of luxury items that had all be purchased over a number of days after Christmas, including handbags and other accessories, clothing, expensive perfumes and aftershaves, women's jewellery and watches. The goods were all well known brands including Swarovski, Givenchy, Chanel and Alexander McQueen.
Many of the items - including several Louis Vuitton handbags - were still wrapped and in the bags they had been purchased in.
Gardaí estimate that €30,000 was spent during that Dublin shopping spree, or was withdrawn in cash at the same time. The money came from two invoice re-direct frauds committed from the Republic on victims in Dubai and Hong Kong at Christmas that netted €55,000 for the gang.
The international group has a large operation in the Republic and gardaí believe they can link it to frauds totaling €6.3 million, of which €5 million has been lodged or moved through bank accounts in Ireland.
The Irish Times has learned a group of men, who are mainly Nigerian and living in Ireland, not only manage the international crime gang’s Irish cell but are also the beneficiaries of the crimes and have been spending the proceeds of those frauds in Ireland.
As well as arresting the man, a 37-year-old from Nigeria who has been in Ireland for some time, gardaí also detained a woman, also 37. She is believed to be the partner of the male suspect and is originally from Guinea, but has been living in Ireland for a lengthy period.
Gardaí believe the man had access to a large number of bank accounts in Ireland into which the proceeds of invoice re-direct frauds were being lodged by the victims and other accounts into which large sums were being dispersed.
The bank accounts, known as mule accounts, are mostly opened by people who then agree to allow the criminals access and use the accounts in exchange for a fee. Gardaí have identified between 80 and 90 people active in the gang’s network in the Republic and have been investigating the group for the past two years under Operation Skein.
The arrests on Wednesday bring to 10 the number of arrests to date under Operation Skein by the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau.
The man and woman being held on Wednesday were arrested under gangland legislation. They are being questioned at Pearse Street and Kevin Street Garda stations under Section 50 of the Criminal Justice Act. They can be held for up to seven days without charge.
Invoice-redirect fraud involves crime gangs tricking companies into lodging money into accounts controlled by the criminals. They send invoices that are purporting to come from one of the targeted companies’ trading partners and effectively dupe their victims into paying money into accounts they control.