Words: Ellen Kenny
The Government will launch an awareness campaign for incoming third-level students about the risks of money laundering.
Gardaí have informed Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris that a high number of college students are still involved with criminal gangs as money mules.
A money mule lodges money from criminal gangs into their accounts for a period of time. The mule then gets to keep a portion of the money when the gang transfers the money back out.
Students typically get involved in these schemes through social media or word-of-mouth. It is often seen as an “easy money for students”. Last year, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau identified 700 suspected money mules. The average age of suspects was 19.
However, gardaí have warned that the consequences of money laundering are more severe than students typically imagine. 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.
Harris announced that his department is working with the Union of Students in Ireland to launch an awareness campaign. The campaign will warn students of the risks and consequences of money laundering. It is set to launch at the start of the upcoming academic year.
Harris said, “Money laundering is a serious offence which on conviction carries a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.”
“This may seem like easy money but this is exploitation by criminal gangs and it is not consequence free.”
Research from British company Nationwide Building Society found that 61 per cent of students think they could be vulnerable to money laundering schemes. 59 per cent said they might become a money mule due to “financial worries”. 51 per cent said it is because they are newly “financially independent”. 41 per cent of students agreed they would not easily spot the “warning signs” of a money mule scheme.
37 percent of students admitted they would click on an advert that gives them the opportunity to earn easy money. 29 per cent of students said they would risk allow someone else to use their current account or would transfer money for someone else.
In 2018, 18 year-old Arina Jersova from Dublin 9 pleaded guilty to laundering 11,000 euros of defrauded money. Jersova did not defraud the money herself, but she kept in her bank account. She was given a two-year suspended sentence, but the judge warned that the day is coming when people go to jail for this type of behaviour.”
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