Gardaí are warning of a rising number of young people being used as ‘money mules’ to help launder the proceeds of crime.
A money mule is someone who allows their account to be used for the transfer of other’s stolen or illegal money.
They may or may not be aware of the crime, however, they are complicit if they recklessly allow their account to be used to launder the proceeds.
An Garda Síochána is warning third level students against becoming money mules as part of their #SafeAtCollege campaign.
Those aged 18-24, and those over 55 years of age are the most commonly targeted age groups by organised crime gangs to act as mules.
Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan of the of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) said that people may not realise the severity of what they’re getting into.
“Those who agree to allow their bank account to be used for the transfer of illegally obtained money may not necessarily realise that they are enabling very dangerous international criminal organisations and are involving themselves with these criminals.”
“It seems quite simple and at the same time quite lucrative, but the reality is that those who allow their bank account to be used are taking a huge personal risk.”
“More than that, they are in essence assisting ruthless criminals involved in human trafficking, people smuggling, terrorism, and even wars.”
Earlier this month, An Garda Síochána confirmed that over 830 money mules had been identified in Ireland in the past number of years.
The GNECB estimate that there are at least 4,000 money mules linked to their investigations who have used Irish addresses, most of them young people.
Criminals will often target vulnerable people, such as those new to the country, students, the unemployed, or people facing financial pressure.
It is also often the case that someone who has racked up a drug debt may be coerced into becoming a money mule to pay it off.
Gardaí caution that ignorance is no excuse, and the penalties include a prison sentence of up to 14 years, deportation, or being unable to open another bank account.
“An Garda Síochána is sending this warning because it isn’t the hardened criminals face on CCTV at an ATM,” Det. Supt. Cryan said.
“It isn’t their phone number or bank account details linked to the transfer of illegal gains – it’s those of the money mule”
He added that there is no easy money to be made, and if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.