herald

Thursday 21 November 2019

Busted holiday scam gang also running vice girl ring across Europe

Fake passports and other documents seized in raids
Fake passports and other documents seized in raids

A major international fraud gang busted by specialist gardai is also running organised prostitution rackets across Europe, the Herald can reveal.

Yesterday, we told how the mobsters have made millions of euro from ripping off Airbnb customers and people using other accommodation providers.

In dawn raids on Wednesday, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) arrested a gang member whose mob is suspected of laundering over €1.5m in 90 separate bank accounts across the country.

The gang is believed to have made more than €3m this year from the accommodation frauds and other bogus online sales.

The suspect, a Romanian national aged in his 30s, remains in custody at Coolock Garda Station where he is being quizzed under anti-gangland legislation.

Gardai have now established that the gang is also involved in a prostitution ring across Europe, including Ireland.

"As the investigation continues, more and more becomes known about this gang almost by the hour," a senior source said.

Arrests

"There will be more arrests in this investigation, that is for sure. An organised prostitution European ring has brought the investigation into a different dimension."

The gang is suspected of carrying out thousands of organised frauds in other EU countries and then using Irish financial institutions to launder the cash. The estimated laundered €1.5m has been taken by the gang from the bank accounts and cannot be retrieved by gardai.

"Primarily this gang have been involved in two different types of organised fraud in Europe," the source added.

"One of the scams has targeted customers of Airbnb and many other accommodation providers all across Europe.

"Customers have been duped into paying money for bogus accommodation.

"They think that they are renting genuine accommodation, but in fact the money is being diverted to the organised criminal gang who have set up false websites.

Jail

"As soon as the cash goes into the gang's bank account, it is removed from it by the criminals."

The suspect being questioned by specialist officers last night has been living in Ireland for only a few months.

He is expected to be charged today with at least a dozen serious fraud-related offences.

He previously served a jail sentence in Finland for similar offences and was deported to his native Romania after completing that prison term but has now surfaced in Dublin.

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