Gardaí believe high-net-worth people have been encouraged into investing millions in Bitcoin by people who are now suspected of taking control of their cryptocurrency accounts, or “wallets” as the accounts are known.
The Irish Times reports that at least one bank became concerned when an older customer made moves to transfer large sums of money, believed to be in the region of €500,000 per transaction, from an account that had not been accessed for years.
While this person was visited by Garda members and briefed about the dangers of transferring the money, it is understood the person initially persisted with their plans as they believed they were making an investment.
However, they eventually accepted the Garda’s advice and another planned transfer of about €500,000 was blocked after co-operation between the person, their bank and gardaí.
Efforts are now under way to trace some of the money that had previously been transferred before the person acted on the Garda’s warning.
A property in south Dublin linked to some of the suspects in what is suspected to be a major fraud was recently searched and gardaí seized items including computers and phones, cash, jewellery and designer handbags.
The suspects, some of whom are foreign nationals and are based in south Dublin, appear to have gained the confidence of the people gardaí are treating as suspected injured parties in a major fraud.
The Garda investigation centres on several victims who gardaí suspect were groomed by suspects and then encouraged to buy very significant amounts of Bitcoin. Gardaí are investigating if access to the buyers’ Bitcoin wallets – where the digital currency is stored – was then assumed by the suspects.
Gardaí are also trying to determine, with the assistance of overseas law enforcement, if some of the money the victims believed they were investing was instead transferred out of the State.