Garda investigation into cyber-fraud gang centres on Irish youth

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An Irish teenager is regarded as the main suspect in an investigation by Waterford gardaí into a significant fraud gang involved in cyber-enabled frauds. Gardaí have arrested nine suspects and seized over €1 million of cryptocurrency, the largest ever sum of the currency seized from an organised gang involved in this kind of alleged “smishing” fraud which is carried out via SMS and WhatsApp messages claiming to be from post offices, delivery companies or financial institutions. The vast majority of money stolen from Irish people in frauds, based around bogus text messages, is usually moved abroad to the foreign criminals running the scams. However, one unusual feature of the group now under investigation by the Garda is that it is allegedly Irish-led. It’s understood that a key individual of interest is a young Irish man who had never come to the attention of the Garda before now. However, despite his youth, he is now a main suspect in an investigation by Waterford gardaí that has spread as far as South Africa and Dubai. The group has links to the Black Axe gang, a global fraud and money laundering syndicate that originated in Nigeria. It also specialises in cyber-enabled crimes and uses a vast network of bank accounts worldwide to launder and conceal the proceeds of its crimes. “The investigation is also conducting enquiries into persons of varying nationalities, multilinguistic, fluent in a number of languages to deceive their victims both nationally and internationally,” the Garda said. To date, nine suspects have been arrested in the Republic, with two already charged. Some €1.12 million in cryptocurrency has been seized over the last two months and €30,000 in accounts frozen. Gardaí have also seized two vehicles — a VW Golf and a Mercedes — and are investigating a property in Dubai. The two men already before the courts are facing a variety of charges including alleged money laundering, thefts and frauds. While the Garda released some details of the operation on Tuesday, it has been ongoing for some time and the arrests and seizures of money and assets occurred over the last two months. The Garda’s Waterford Division Crime Hub has been conducting a criminal inquiry into the Irish-based gang, with assistance from the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau. The force’s National Cyber Crime Bureau has also been involved as well as Europol and the Garda’s Passenger Information Unit, which tracks movements in and out of the Republic. Garda liaison officers in Irish embassies abroad were also dealing with police in those countries as part of the inquiry.

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