14 held in money laundering probe
Thirteen men and a woman have been arrested by revenue and customs officers investigating a suspected £15 million money laundering racket run by an organised crime gang.
One of the men was detained in London. Nine men and the woman were held in Belfast, with the three other men arrested in counties Londonderry, Armagh and Antrim.
The investigation is connected to income tax and VAT fraud linked to the construction industry. The HMRC described the raids as the largest operation of its kind ever undertaken in Northern Ireland.
Assisted by officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), HMRC staff searched 31 business and residential properties in Belfast, Co Armagh, Co Antrim and Co Londonderry.
In co-ordinated activity in Stoke Newington in London, one man was arrested after two businesses and one private address were raided by HMRC accompanied by officers from the Metropolitan Police.
HMRC said an organised crime gang was believed to have created a chain of companies, claiming to sub-contract labour for construction projects, with the intent of disappearing before any tax was paid. Business records, cash and computer equipment were seized during the operation.
John Whiting, assistant director criminal investigation, HMRC said: "This investigation codenamed Operation Concentric is targeting a suspected organised crime gang involved in sophisticated multi-million pound income tax and VAT frauds in the construction industry, and the associated laundering of the criminal profits.
"The frauds are believed to have resulted in the theft of millions of pounds of public revenue.
"Tax fraud and attempts to launder the proceeds of crime are key priorities for HMRC, and we will continue to work with our partners in the Organised Crime Task Force to pursue any individuals or crime gangs believed to be attacking the public purse in this way."
The 14 were being interviewed by HMRC officers and investigations were continuing.