Taking On The African/Nigerian Black Axe Gang!
Irish Garda Plays A Key Role In Taking Them On
A major Garda Síochána enforcement action was conducted in conjunction with INTERPOL and Law Enforcement Agencies across 21 countries around the world under Operation JACKAL. Closing ranks on West African organized crime: more than EUR 2 million seized in Operation Jackal
In the most recent series of actions Gardaí identify almost 1,000 people with Irish addresses linked to the sinister operation which also funds terror
Previous 2023 Garda Actions Against Black Axe:
- 3 premises were searched in Dublin, Wicklow, and Longford
- 9 persons were arrested and detained under Organised Crime legislation
- 4 Persons were arrested and detained for money laundering offenses
- 33 persons were arrested and charged with money laundering
- 1 person was arrested and charged with gangland offenses and money laundering
- 9 incidents of stolen money recovered from foreign bank accounts
- Over €400,000 of stolen monies was recovered from Irish companies.
Black Axe & Operation JACKAL 2023
As part of INTERPOL Operation JACKAL an international Law Enforcement action was planned to take place across April and May of 2023.
Led by the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB), under Operation SKEIN, in this jurisdiction, due to the volume of arrests/ detentions/ charges in Ireland, the period of action commenced during the 1st Quarter of 2023 and culminated in intensified activity during April/ May 2023. However, arrests are continuing still.
These operations were built on activity previously highlighted by An Garda Síochána in October 2022. Interpol Operation JACKAL / Ireland Operation Skein – 14th October 2022 – Garda
There were three facets to the Ireland plan:
- Conduct searches for evidence
- Arrest, detain, and question suspects
- Arrest and charge suspects where directions have been received from the DPP.
Due to the volume of reports, cases, and suspects, GNECB submitted investigative packages to local districts for suspects to be arrested and investigated locally. The searches and detentions were coordinated by the GNECB and included assistance from local Garda units across the country. The arrests for charging were conducted by GNECB and local Gardaí in counties including Dublin, Meath, Kildare, Limerick, Kerry, Laois, Longford, and Cork.
In addition, GNECB continues to work with financial institutions to put new systems in place for the reporting of money laundering and money mules. The co-operation of financial institutions has been second to none and the success of this operation could not have been achieved without this support.
Positive examples of cases where money was recovered from Business Email Compromise (BEC) fraud in Ireland include:
- Case 1: Complaint by a company that over €98,000 was stolen in a BEC fraud and transferred to a bank a/c in Portugal – working with the financial institution, the payment was canceled and all the money was recovered.
- Case 2: Over €149,000 was stolen in a BEC from a victim buying an apartment in Spain. Money was laundered through an a/c in Spain. Working with the financial institution GNECB was able to recover nearly €76,000 laundered through a secondary a/c in Spain.
- Case 3: Over €95,000 was stolen in a BEC in the USA in early April 2023 and laundered through an a/c in Ireland. Working with the financial institution, GNECB was able to freeze and recover over €91,000.
In 7 cases involving Irish Companies, with over €475,000 cash stolen, over €400,000 was recovered by the GNECB.
Speaking about the results of Operation JACKAL, Assistant Commissioner Kelly, Organised and Serious Crime said “Operation JACKAL continues to demonstrate our commitment to work internationally, engaging with Law Enforcement partners, such as INTERPOL, in disrupting the activities of Transnational Organised Crime Groups. Operation JACKAL is a direct response to investigations initiated by the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB), once again highlighting the internationally recognised expertise and professionalism of the members of An Garda Síochána, particularly those attached to GNECB”
Speaking about Operation SKEIN, Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan, Garda National Economic Crime Bureau highlighted that “The 34 persons arrested and charged as part of this phase of Operation SKEIN were involved in money laundering, these persons were facilitating the criminal activities of organised crime groups, by allowing their bank accounts to be used to move criminally gained money. They also facilitated and contributed to the theft of money from other individuals and companies. This is a crime. These persons face a criminal conviction and the long term impacts of such a conviction.”
DSupt Cryan further appealed “Do not let any other person have access to or use your account to transfer money. If you are approached on social media or other platform, with a promise of ‘easy money’, beware, your bank account is your information and your responsibility.” “If you believe your account has been compromised in some way, contact your financial institution and An Garda Síochána.”
Black Axe Assessment
It is the assessment of GNECB/ INTERPOL that this Criminal Organisation is the Black AXE, a Criminal Organisation formed in West Africa in the mid-1970s and which is now operating worldwide. This investigation began with a request for assistance from an EU country, via EUROPOL in early 2020. €1.1 million was stolen in a BEC fraud and laundered through Asia. The fake emails originated from Ireland. Electronic devices seized during this investigation, analyzed in cooperation with International Law Enforcement indicated for the first time that this Criminal Organisation was operating from Ireland and not just laundering through Ireland.
To date, the following Garda investigative and enforcement activity has taken place, nationwide:
- 433 arrests total
- 84 persons arrested under organized crime legislation
- 327 persons arrested for money laundering offenses
- 102 Arrests by GNECB (of the above)
- 204 persons charged to date
- 22 Juveniles admitted to the Juvenile Diversion Programme
New Arrests of Black Axe
Black Axe fraud gang targeted by Garda in new Dublin search – Tallaght operation sees the arrest of a man suspected of controlling 50 bank accounts and seizure of Range Rover vehicle, 30 mobile phones, bank cards, and passports
According to the Irish Times:
Gardaí investigating Black Axe gang operations in the Republic have seized a Range Rover vehicle valued at €100,000 and 30 mobile phones during a Dublin search.
A man arrested during the search, aged in his 20s, is suspected of controlling 50 ‘money mule’ bank accounts that were used to launder the proceeds of frauds by the gang. The money mostly came from bogus text message-based scams targeting people in Ireland.
The Black Axe gang started in Nigeria in 1977, initially as a university-based fraternity or cult whose logo at the time was a slave’s arms in shackles being broken by a black axe. However, it morphed into an organised crime group involved in drug dealing, murders, prostitution, people trafficking, gun running and intimidation.
Source: Black Axe fraud gang targeted by Garda in Dublin search – The Irish Times
Gardaí suspects that the group currently under investigation in Tallaght is a crucial component of the Black Axe gang’s infrastructure in Ireland. Specifically targeted during the recent searches, this group’s significance is such that even senior members operate from designated offices. Of particular interest to the Garda is a middle-aged individual connected to this group.
The recent arrests involve a suspect in his twenties, apprehended on Monday, who is believed to have been in control of bank accounts utilized in fraudulent activities. These accounts are spread across various jurisdictions including Ireland, Norway, Germany, and the United States.
The individual arrested is thought to play a role known as a ‘herder’ within the Black Axe operation. His responsibilities include recruiting and overseeing money mules, individuals who are lured into letting their accounts be employed for transferring the illicit gains obtained through fraud.
The arrested man’s bank accounts have seen a flow of €196,000, with the funds passing through the accounts of these money mules. It’s suspected that the money mules receive some of the fraud proceeds for the use of their accounts, although often the promised compensation is never actually paid.
In the course of the search conducted on Monday in Tallaght, an array of documents and items that appear to be related to the money mule aspect of the Black Axe fraud scheme were discovered.
This operation, carried out by the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau, resulted in the confiscation of passports, bank cards linked to family members and suspected money mules, detailed bank account information, both euro and dollar currencies in cash, a note counter, records of companies and enterprises, 30 mobile phones, and computers.
Another individual was apprehended during this operation – a foreign national in his 50s suspected to have entered the country unlawfully. As of Tuesday, he was in the custody of the Garda, pending his removal from Ireland.
The impounded Range Rover is believed to have been purchased using some of the profits from the fraud activities in which the suspects were involved.
According to a statement from Garda headquarters, “A man in his early 20s was arrested for an offense contrary to the Criminal Justice Act 2006 and is currently detained at a Garda station in Dublin.” This individual was identified as a suspected “money mule herder” responsible for recruiting and managing money mules and their associated bank accounts.
Up to this point, it is estimated that the Black Axe gang operating in the Republic of Ireland has either stolen or laundered approximately €64 million, primarily through romance scams and invoice (BEC) frauds.
The gang’s Irish unit engages in money laundering through an expanding network of money mules, whose accounts serve as conduits to receive and subsequently distribute the illicit gains from frauds executed by other cells globally.
This dispersal of funds aims to confound law enforcement and create a complex web of transfers and withdrawals, effectively laundering and extracting cash before banks can respond and halt transactions.
The gang has demonstrated a skill for leveraging technological advancements such as the internet, mobile devices, social media, dating apps, and online banking, which have enabled its fraudulent network to span the globe via the virtual realm.