Declan Brennan and Fiona Ferguson
A computer programmer described as a “sergeant” in relation to money laundering for an international organised crime group has been jailed for two years.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that Ajibola Bamidele (33) was recruited as a money mule but then became a recruiter for other money mules for a gang that is linked to the laundering of millions in criminal proceeds.
Bamidele of Hastings Green, Hamlet Lane, Balbriggan, Balbriggan, Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to four counts of money laundering on dates in June and July 2020.
Detective Garda Stephen Kelly told John Berry BL, prosecuting, that these activities related to an organised criminal group who were active in Nigeria and western Europe.
Quoting from a statement from Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan, he said that this group was involved in the laundering of €22 million through an Irish bank.
He said that the investigation began on foot on notifications from financial institutions of suspicious transactions. A named individual, who it later transpired to be Bamidele, had recruited to act as a money mule, was identified when €37,000 was lodged into his account in July 2020.
This money was moved to bank accounts in Turkey, from where €8,000 was moved back to Bamidele's account. Bamidele then transferred €4,000 to another man's account as payment for his participation.
This other man was prosecuted for money laundering, pleaded guilty and received a suspended sentence. Mr Berry told the court this man was at the lowest level mule while Bamidele was slightly above him.
He was involved in the dispersal of €10,400 in funds generated from a smishing fraud which targeted bank customers with a fraudulent text message. Bamidele was not involved in setting up or executing the smishing fraud, which saw €225,000 taken from Bank of Ireland customers, Mr Berry said.
These funds were dissipated in 116 transactions to 38 separate online bank accounts all operated by money mules. One of these belonged to Bamidele, and Bamidele transferred his funds into bitcoin.
Bamidele also allowed a different online bank account to be used for the transfer of €2,000, which was taken from customers whose payments for legitimate online goods were redirected.
Dt Gda Kelly said that these invoice redirects, fake “e-retailer” frauds and smishing frauds were all typical of the organised crime gang. He said it wasn't difficult to identify Bamidele, who was linked to the crimes through his own mobile phone.
The garda agreed with Dean Kelly SC, defending, that Bamidele had willingly gotten involved to make a quick buck and was not under duress but that, similarly, the people he recruited were not under duress and knew what they were getting into.
Mr Kelly said his client occupied the role of “a sergeant” who found others to act as mules. He said Bamidele had been working for Google, flagging content of an upsetting nature.
He said that while this is a grand international scheme to steal people’s money, albeit often in small amounts, his client was “many floors” down in the tower of criminality.
He said his client came to Ireland as a young boy with his aunt and has worked hard since finishing school. He has his own children and has applied for citizenship, and this conviction is likely to be “looked at very poorly” by the Department of Justice, counsel said.
Judge Martina Baxter said Bamidele had made a conscious decision in relation to the offending for financial gain. She said if there were no individuals willing to provide service for criminal organisations, they would find it difficult to sustain the profits identified in this case.
She noted in mitigation Bamidele had entered early guilty pleas, cooperated in relation to his own role, expresses remorse and regret and previously lived a pro-social life in gainful employment.
She noted letters handed into court by friends and members of his community.
Judge Baxter imposed a three-year sentence and suspended the final year on strict conditions, and ordered 12 months of probation supervision. She said the suspension was to encourage the development of insight into his offending and victim empathy, as well as to incentivise desistence.