Author: Nicola Sharp 7 May 2021
Nicola Sharp of financial crime specialists Rahman Ravelli considers the reasons for this and the challenges facing banks.
The number of money laundering offences recorded in Ireland has more than doubled in the past year.
Figures reported by The Irish Times show that 524 instances of money laundering were reported last year, compared with 234 in 2019. The 2020 total is a six-fold increase on the 83 money laundering offences reported in 2018, and is more than ten times the annual totals reported in 2012-17, which never rose above 50 a year.
Ireland’s national police service, the Garda, has said the increase reflects the changing nature of crime in Ireland, with more offences being carried out online and extra police resources being targeted at white-collar and cybercrime. There is now a closer focus on investigating money laundering being carried out by drug dealers and organised crime gangs.
The number of suspicious transaction reports made by banks to the Garda and Revenue Commissioners increased to 28,865 last year - a 13% increase on the 2019 figure.
The Garda believes some of last year’s increase is due to drug gangs having to take greater risks with money laundering because the Covid-19 pandemic restricted the operation of cash businesses that they would normally use for laundering. But it also said there had been an increase in cyber fraud and the use of people as mules by gangs, who want to use those individuals’ bank accounts to move around money generated through crime.
Clearly, the highlighting of heightened money laundering risks in Ireland has led to increased compliance within the banks; which can be seen by the rise in the number of SARs that have been made. The banks will now need to continue to enhance their compliance policies and procedures. This is partly because of the need to try and combat increased offending that has arisen due to factors such as COVID-19. But it is also because of the clear rise in popularity of online activity as a way of facilitating money laundering.
Nicola is known for her fraud, civil recovery, arbitration and business crime expertise, her experience of leading the largest financial disputes and multinational investigations and her skills in devising preventative measures and conducting internal investigations for corporates.