By Elizabeth Hearst for AMLi
One of Europe’s top prosecutors has warned of the “industrialisation of fraud”, facilitated by increased automation and the “cyber sphere”.
The Director of Public Prosecution of Ireland Claire Loftus detailed how an increasing number of money laundering and financial crime files were now being prosecuted, with “large numbers of ‘money mules’ and their ‘herders’” commonly seen in cyber fraud cases.
Director Loftus added that the body had “successfully prosecuted a number of money laundering cases arising from online cyber fraud” in recent years, but anticipates that the number of these cases is expected to rise in the near future.
Speaking at the International Fraud Prevention Conference IFPC2021, Director Loftus described how the number of cases that have come across her desk have risen exponentially during her 10-year tenure.
She added that since she took office in 2011, the number of money laundering charges brought by the State has soared from just three to more than 200 in 2020. Director Loftus detailed that “the stand out trend in financial crime in recent years is the significant increase in money laundering prosecutions”.
Director Loftus admitted that this “increase has been particularly marked in the last two years with 2020 (221 files) reflecting more than a 50% increase on the 2019 figure of 103 files”, and described the last ten years, and particularly the last five as a “money laundering journey for investigators, prosecutors and the Courts”.
Quoting IFPC FinCrime & Cybersecurity Chair and AMLi Co-Founder Stephen Rae, Director Loftus noted that “increasingly the convergence of cybersecurity, fraud per se and financial/economic crime is gathering pace at such a rate that it is now very difficult to say where one discipline begins and the other ends.” She added that “increasingly the money laundering offence is key as a basis for prosecuting” in cyber fraud cases.
Working closely with the Irish police National Economic Crime Bureau, Director Loftus warned that prosecutors will “have to be ready for whatever new and innovative forms of offending” that may be on the horizon.
Director Loftus described how she “recently requested the Court of Appeal to review a number of money laundering sentences” she considered “unduly lenient”, resulting in the increase of two of the three sentences by the Court of Appeal,
Referencing the Hamilton Report, Director Loftus welcomed its recommendations for “greater resourcing for the prosecution of financial crime”, highlighting the potential need for “additional prosecutors along with seconded specialists in digital forensics and forensic accountancy”.
Director Loftus believes that harsher prison sentences will be on the cards for those involved in money laundering cases, and added that “the sentencing aspects of money laundering will continue to develop as convictions increase”.
But, Director Loftus warned that as “criminality can be orchestrated from anywhere in the world”, this “raises issues both of jurisdiction and the need for strong police and judicial cooperation to secure evidence and have it admitted in Irish courts”, adding that such offenses require “an increased focus on freezing of assets and post-conviction forfeiture and confiscation of assets, including virtual currencies”.
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