European police have targeted an Irish family thought to have laundered as much as €4m ($4.9m) from elsewhere in the region.
The Criminal Asset Bureau of the Irish National Police ordered raids across four residential properties and one business premises in Tipperary and Kilkenny, resulting in the seizure of €100,000 in cash and a car worth €75,000, according to Europol.
Some 16 bank accounts linked to members of the organized crime group were also frozen, along with funds in them amounting to €540,000.
Europol claimed the seizures were possible because the Irish police operate a model of “non-conviction-based forfeiture” whereby assets can be seized without the need for a prior criminal conviction.
This means assets and funds believed to have been obtained illegally or generated by criminality can be captured before they are laundered by organized criminals.
The family-based gang itself, while unnamed, is believed to have made its money from illegal activities across Europe.
“In this case, Europol’s European Financial and Economic Crime Center (EFECC) pieced together the intelligence provided by different countries on this one same criminal network and put all the involved countries around one table,” said Europol.
“The partners have since worked closely together on this case to uncover the actual magnitude of the criminal activity of this gang and to establish a joint strategy for the final phase of the investigation.”
However, in general, seizures like this are just a drop in the ocean. A leak of Over 2000 suspicious activity reports (SARs) filed with the US government’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) between 2000 and 2017 revealed $2tn of money laundering activity.
Even this amounted to only a small proportion of SARs filed by banks over the 17-year period.
A study from BAE Systems Applied Intelligence last year revealed that most banking customers want their financial institution to do more to stop money laundering and related offenses, but that a lack of resources, outdated technology, poor international cooperation and a broken regulatory system are all barriers.
Judging by UN estimates, as much as $4.5tn may have been laundered last year.