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Analysis: Washing dirty cash key to organised crime

PSNI Detective Chief Inspector Ian Wilson of the Economic Crime Unit.

ORGANISED crime could not operate and would not flourish without the ability to 'wash' the ill-gotten gains of criminals who prey on misery.

The people used to carry out this service may not be those on the police radar but are so desperate for easy money that they are willing to put their name to fake companies laundering dirty cash.

The process involves setting up a business, registered with Companies House with a linked business bank account. So far, so legal.

However the businesses do not engage in trade. They are often second-hand car sales, wholesale trade businesses or consultancy firms - anything that doesn't require a physical shop front.

Money is paid into an account and then quickly paid out to another as a business transaction, and so it moves along the chain until it is no longer traceable as the proceeds of crime.

Those fronting the fake businesses are paid a few thousand pounds per transaction.

Detectives say about £215m was laundered during an eight-year period from 2011 using this method, a trade propped up by men and women funding lifestyles above and beyond their income, helping to clean the proceeds of drugs, prostitution and people trafficking.

The PSNI said yesterday they have so far discovered no paramilitary link to the money laundering ring.

Six men and a woman have been arrested. Four of the men have been released on bail but they are thought to represent only the tip of the iceberg

Detectives are still examining paperwork siezed during searches on Monday to get to grips with the scale of the operation, but say this is the second biggest money laundering operation ever uncovered in the UK.

The godfathers of the operation, those who were profiting in the millions from their criminality and benefitting from an operation that allowed them to turn dirty money into clean cash, have not been arrested.

However, the disruption of this operation will be a big blow to those who have used Northern Ireland as a staging post for the 'washing' of criminal assets.

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Analysis