Investigation underway of firefighters, border guards used as money mules

The Internal Security Bureau (IDB) has investigated six criminal cases this year in which firefighters and border guards were recruited as money mules in fraud schemes, reports TV3's "Nekā personīga/Nothing Personal" broadcast and news agency LETA.

"Money mules" allow money received from a third party to be transferred through their account, or are offered a bank account and sell it to another person.

For a relatively small fee, they allegedly handed over their personal data to unknown people and opened bank accounts for their use. They were later used for money laundering.

The involvement of border guards and firefighters in opening accounts for such criminals has become a fast-growing trend, the broadcast said.

One firefighter pleaded guilty and has already been fined and retired from the State Fire and Rescue Service (VUGD).

Last autumn, German law enforcers informed their Latvian counterparts about the involvement of a Latvian citizen in a suspicious scheme. An advertisement on a German portal for the sale of real estate required a security deposit of EUR 8,000 to be paid into a German bank account. The law enforcers suspected fraud because the property did not exist. The Solarisbank account was in the name of a 29-year-old Latvian firefighter.

Jānis Balodis, a prosecutor at the Prosecutor's Office in Pierīga, told the broadcast that the firefighter had opened an account with a German bank at the request of an unidentified person and had passed his details to the person via the Telegram platform, allowing the fraudster to use the account illegally. According to the firefighter's testimony, he did not imagine that the account would be used to commit a crime and thought it would be used on a cryptocurrency exchange.

Investigations in Germany revealed that several transfers amounting to several thousand euros were made through the account. The recruiter promised €30 to open the account, but the firefighter did not receive this either. All correspondence with the stranger has been deleted and cannot be recovered.

The firefighter has no previous conviction and has confessed to the crime. The prosecutor has issued him with a penalty order of 100 hours of community service for the illegal transfer of data on a bank current account.

The IDB continues to investigate other cases of firefighters and border guards who handed over their private data for a small fee and helped strangers to launder funds, reports "Nekā personīga".

Ivars Lubejs, Deputy Head of the Pre-Trial Investigation Division of the IDB, told the broadcast that all the cases investigated by the bureau so far have been opened in banks in other EU countries. The promised payment was symbolic, only a few dozens of euros. All the Interior Ministry staff involved in the criminal proceedings are under 30 years of age.

Meanwhile, the Financial Intelligence Service this year has issued 36 orders to freeze the funds in the accounts of the money mules in Latvian banks. The largest amount is €18,000, while the youngest person used as a "money mule" was a minor.

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