Northern Ireland

Money laundering: Assets seized in £215m money laundering operation

The investigation into a £215m money laundering operation involved searches carried out at 15 locations, including this one in Banbridge
Image caption Police officers at one of 15 addresses across Northern Ireland raided as part of a major investigation into international money laundering

Police say they have broken up a major international money laundering operation being run out of Northern Ireland.

Detectives say about £215m was laundered during an eight-year period from 2011.

Six men and a woman, arrested during the two-day operation on Monday and Tuesday, have been released on bail.

It is understood to be the second biggest money laundering operation ever uncovered in the UK.

It is not believed there is any paramilitary link to the money laundering operation.

Officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) carried out eight searches in Banbridge, Newry and Omagh on Monday, with further searches in Belfast, Banbridge, Newry and Ballymena on Tuesday.

They believe fake companies were set up to launder money for Irish and UK crime gangs engaged in drugs, human trafficking and prostitution.

The "complex" investigation involved the international police agencies Europol and Interpol, as well as authorities in the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain.

In a tweet, the Chief Constable, Simon Byrne, praised the "tenacious" and "complex" work carried out by the Economic Crime Unit, who uncovered the operation.

PSNI Det Ch Insp Ian Wilson said: "We believe today's operation is one of the most significant live investigations into money laundering in the UK.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption PSNI Det Ch Insp Ian Wilson said the operation targeted "individuals suspected of high-end money laundering"

"During our extensive investigation we identified that a significant volume of suspected criminal cash was being laundered out of the country through a number of shell companies and bank accounts held here in Northern Ireland.

"The investigation has identified over 50 companies and over 140 bank accounts."