TD calls for ‘time-limited amnesty’ for young people recruited as ‘money mules’

Marian Harkin says Government could offer amnesty for those caught up in ‘exploitation’

Gardaí expressed concern that such a large number of young people were willing to allow their accounts to be used. Photograph: iStock

Gardaí expressed concern that such a large number of young people were willing to allow their accounts to be used. Photograph: iStock

 

A call has been made for a “strictly time-limited amnesty” for young people recruited to act as money mules for an international crime syndicate.

Independent TD Marian Harkin made the appeal in the wake of a report in The Irish Times that gardaí had identified more than 50 young people around one Co Kerry town who were recruited by a Munster teenager to allow their bank accounts be used to receive money from frauds carried out by the gang.

She said amnesties had previously been offered to those who owed tax and “we should at least investigate” whether it can be done for people who have been caught up in this web of exploitation.

Gardaí expressed concern that such a large number of young people in a relatively sparsely populated part of the Republic were so willing to allow their accounts to be used.

And Ms Harkin warned that “recruiters are most likely working right across the country right now” and she suspected that many of these young people “do not realise what is happening and just see this activity as a handy way to make a few bob or even do a favour for a mate”.

She warned that some would become trapped “because the people who want to exert pressure on them, now or later, have leverage on them”.

“These are our sons, daughters, nieces, nephews and grandchildren. We have a duty to act now.

“We may need to look at some kind of strictly time-limited amnesty to give cover to young people who have been caught up in this web of exploitation.”

She was speaking during a Dáil debate on the transposition of an EU anti-money laundering directive into domestic Irish law.

The directive provides for the creation of a centralised bank account register by all member states, which will be accessible through a single access point and available to designated authorities across the EU investigating crime.

The measures would allow investigators to trace, freeze and confiscate criminal assets quickly before the proceeds can disappear. Under current rules it can take up to 30 days through bilateral agreements.

In the debate Labour TD Sean Sherlock also expressed concern that the mistake made by young people in allowing their accounts be used could follow them throughout life.

He asked if their accounts and names be permanently listed on the EU-wide database.

“There is always an imbalance between the crime lords and the mules. The mules are always the first to be subject to the rigours of the law and the crime lords walk off into the sunset or Marbella or wherever they happen to be.”

He said the Kerry cased involved teenagers, some of whom would know quite well what they were up to but others would be “led on and naive”. Mr Sherlock feared “they could be forever blacklisted in any financial transactions they have”.

Minister of State James Browne, who introduced the EU directive motion and spoke before the Kerry case was raised, said access to the database would be available only to financial intelligence units. He said the “national bodies which receive suspicious transaction reports are obliged to enter these and forward them as appropriate to criminal investigative authorities”.

He said that in the interests of combating serious crime and “in particular, carrying out effective financial investigations”, authorities needed access to such a centralised database “to be able to identify, analyse and interpret the financial information relevant for criminal proceedings”.