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Garda warning as students continue to launder money as money mules

A new awareness campaign is being launched this autumn.

Image: Shutterstock/Mikael Damkier

GARDAÍ HAVE CONTACTED Minister Simon Harris over concerns that a high number of third-level students are still being used to help launder money for criminal gangs. 

Officers have been in touch with the Minister for Higher Education ahead of a planned awareness campaign around the issue. 

A money mule is where criminal gangs ask students for the use of their bank accounts, they transfer money into their account, leave it there for a period of time and then transfer it back out leaving an amount for the student for the use of the account.

This is often seen as “easy money for students” but gardaí want to warn them that there could be implications for them if they get involved and that students can end up being charged with fraud themselves.

Being charged and convicted of this offence can have serious implications for students, including being banned from travelling to certain countries such as the United States.  

Minister Harris said: “Gardai have been in touch with my Department and we are working together with the Union of Students in Ireland to get the message out to students.

“This may seem like easy money but this is exploitation by criminal gangs and it is not consequence free.

“It is really important that account holders, and students, are aware of the consequences of being caught moving fraudulent funds. Money laundering is a serious offence which on conviction carries a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

“Most students are not aware of these consequences and may just see this as an opportunity to earn money quickly and easily. So we will work with An Garda Siochana and students unions to ensure students are aware of the consequences and avoid becoming money mules.”

Last year, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) identified 700 suspected money mules with arrests being made “every day of the week”. The average age of those involved is 19. 

Some people are recruited unwittingly, usually through a too-good-to-be-true earning opportunity via social media or word of mouth. Teenagers are particularly at risk because they are targeted in what appears to be a friendly approach by the criminal.

Advertisements for “get rich quick” or fake jobs on Facebook are also being used to dupe people.

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