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Two Indonesian soldiers found to be smuggling dozens of porcupines

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Irish students could face 14 years behind bars for acting as money mules

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Police in Ireland are warning students not to allow organised crime networks to use their bank accounts to launder the proceeds of illicit activity.

The Garda National Economic Crime Bureau yesterday launched an awareness campaign designed to educate young people about the potential consequences of permitting their banking facilities to be used in this manner, noting that anybody who is caught acting as a money mule could face money laundering charges that carry a maximum jail term of 14 years.

Over the course of the campaign, which will run until the end of next month, police officers will visit universities across the republic and tell students they should resist the urge to make  a “quick buck” by allowing the proceeds of crime to pass through their bank accounts.

New survey results released to coincide with the launch of the campaign show that 43% of 18 to 24 year olds in Ireland would be willing to act as money mules, and that more than 1,600 money mule cases were reported by major Irish retail banks last year.

According to the poll, 14% of young adults in Ireland said they or someone they know has been approached by a person wanting to use their bank accounts to process suspected illicit transactions.

Organised criminal gangs looking to launder dirty cash typically approach low-income groups such as the unemployed or students to act as money mules, asking them to allow the proceeds of crime to be paid in and out of their bank accounts for a percentage fee of the funds involved.

The Garda National Economic Crime Bureau has said it is currently investigating a €2 million ($225.4 million) money laundering scam that is thought to involve the use of some 200 money mule accounts.

Announcing the launch of the awareness-raising campaign, Detective Inspector Gunne said: “If you agree to allow your account be used in this way you are committing the offence of money laundering.

“Money laundering is a serious offence which on conviction carries a penalty of up to 14 years imprisonment.

“This will have a serious impact on your future travel plans, career opportunities, vetting and credit ratings.”

In October last year, UK fraud prevention service Cifas revealed that it has recorded a 26% increase in the number of young people aged under 21 acting as money mules.

The organisation called on the UK banking industry to provide young people with more information on the potential consequences of allowing their accounts to be used for the laundering of criminal money.

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Europol counter-terror conference focuses on threat posed by extremists returning from conflict zones

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Hundreds of experts have gathered at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague for a two-day conference on terrorism and extremist propaganda.

The third annual conference of the European Counter Terrorism Centre Advisory Network brings together delegates from the public and private sector and academia, who will use the event to discuss topics linked to terrorism and the threat it poses to Europe.

Attendees will hear how instability and conflict in other parts of the world has had a significant impact on extremist communities based in Europe over recent years, and how foreign fighters who travelled to join Islamist groups such as Daesh in countries such as Iraq and Syria could return home and commit violent terrorist acts.

The conference will also explore how extremists become radicalised, considering issues such as mental health, social pressure and personal barriers, and will also explore how radicalised individuals become involved in violent terrorist activity.

The event focuses on three main questions, with gathered experts looking at how geopolitics influences the development of terrorism, what drives extremists to become terrorists, and how online terrorist content can be tackled.

In a statement, Europol said: “To counter the constant evolution of the terrorist threat, Europol has initiated a close collaboration between law enforcement experts, the private sector and academia through the creation of the European Counter Terrorism Centre Advisory Network on terrorism and propaganda in 2016.

“This close collaboration contributes to better knowing and responding to rapidly shifting threats to public security. The work of the network has already resulted in the publishing of eight research papers presented during the first two conferences of the network.”

Separately, an operation led by Interpol designed to identify and disrupt terrorist and other transnational threats across Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda has exposed the extent of criminal mobility in the region, according to the international law enforcement agency.

Operation Simba, which took place at border entry points in the three countries over a 10-day period last month, saw a coalition of security authorities conduct more than four million checks against Interpol’s global databases, resulting in 827 positive “hits”, including individuals subject to Interpol Red, Blue, Green and UN Notices.

Those identified during the course of the effort were linked to a number of crimes, including terrorism, genocide, fraud and trafficking.

Three people have been arrested as a result of the operation so far, with more detentions likely to follow as linked investigations progress.

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Telecoms fraud costs more than €29 billion a year, Europol report reveals

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A new report from Europol and online security firm Trend Micro has revealed that telecoms fraud is estimated to cost in excess of €29 billion ($32.8 billion) annually.

The jointly-authored Cyber-Telecom Crime Report 2019 found that the wider availability of low-cost hacking equipment has resulted in a sharp rise in this type of crime, and that the perpetrators of telecoms fraud are increasingly found to be based in developing countries and “failed states”.

According to the report, these trends are likely to continue with the coming deployment of next-generation 5G mobile networks, with attack vectors expected to rise in line with the growing scalability of network infrastructure.

The study highlights a major form of telecoms fraud as vishing, a method that sees scammers contact members of the public and con them into handing over money or reveal personal information that can be used for illegal activities such as identity theft.

Due to the costly nature of running vishing operations, the criminal networks behind such conspiracies typically use the method to target “high-value resources”, employing techniques such as caller ID spoofing in an effort to convince victims they are calling from a bank, tax authority or some other organisation they might have reason to be in contact with.

In some cases, victims have been known to lose their life savings to vishing fraudsters.

Another form of telecoms fraud described in the report involves scammers setting up an automated system to call a large sample of numbers, allowing the phone to ring only once in a bid to trick victims into calling back a premium rate line.

Unveiling the report last week, Steven Wilson, Head of the Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre, commented: “Telecommunications fraud is another example of criminals ‘hacking the system’ in order to abuse legitimate enterprises for criminal gain.

“While this is not a new crime area, it does represent a new challenge for many law enforcement agencies throughout the European Union.”

Advising members of the public to be more alive to the threat they might face from telecoms fraud, Craig Gibson, Principal Threat Defence Architect at Trend Micro, added: “We trust that our phones will work, that we can work from home, that we can be paid through our ATM accounts, and that we can shop online.

“We tend not to think about what is under the covers of the unseen global network we rely on so much.”

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