Sham marriage ‘money trail’ leads CAB to seize 85 cars worth €2m
September 25 2020 02:30 AM
Garda inquiries into the “money trail” from sham marriages played a major role yesterday in the seizure of 85 cars valued at more than €2m.
The raid by the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) at a used car dealership in Co Tipperary was one of six yesterday in the county and in Co Clare as part of an investigation into an international crime gang.
Gardaí also seized two trucks and a car transporter. As gardaí pounced on four homes and two businesses, police in England’s West Midlands arrested four people for “invoice redirect” fraud targeting UK companies.
Last night, a senior source said the gang at the centre of the probe had made millions of euro from sham marriages here.
It has been a main target for the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) as part of Operation Vantage, which was launched in 2015.
“Intelligence from the GNIB investigation as well as information from the West Midlands Police enabled the CAB to seize the vehicles under proceeds of crime legislation,” a senior source said.
Operation Vantage probed sham marriages involving an EU citizen marrying someone from outside the EU so that person could secure immigration status.
Men from Pakistan, India and other Asian countries paid around €20,000 each to marry women from EU countries, mostly in eastern Europe, with the women being each paid on average less than €2,000.
“It was a huge money-making operation but gardaí have effectively shut the sham marriages down over the last number of years but the gang still needed to launder money they got from it,” the source said. “That is where this car dealership came into it – the cars were bought legitimately in the UK with money that was the proceeds of crime and then brought to the dealership in Co Tipperary where the cars were registered here and sold.”
Inspections by specialist detectives from the Garda’s stolen motor vehicle investigation unit established that none of the 85 cars here had been stolen.
Among them were high-end models such as Range Rovers and BMWs.
The CAB also confiscated more than €21,000 in cash and froze in excess of €200,000 in bank accounts here. Gardaí made no arrests.
Detective Chief Superintendent Michael Gubbins said the operation was an example of the co-operation between the Criminal Assets Bureau, An Garda Síochána and UK police forces.