PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) officers operating a check pointAFP/Getty Images

Police in Northern Ireland have made 14 arrests in the biggest ever crackdown on fraud north of the border.

Customs officers detained 13 men and one woman during a raid on premises on the Falls Road in West Belfast on Tuesday.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) provided back-up to officers from HM Revenue & Customs during the raids.

The operation is part of an investigation into a money-laundering and income tax and Vat fraud that is worth over $20million.

Police believe the racket is connected to the construction industry in Northern Ireland.
In total they searched 31 business and residential properties in Belfast, Armagh, Antrim and Derry.

The Guardian newspaper reports that a man was also arrested in North London as part of the operation after police there searched two businesses and one private address.

Business records, cash and computer equipment were seized during both operations.

Customs official John Whiting, assistant director of criminal investigation at HMRC, said: “This investigation, codenamed Operation Concentric, is targeting a suspected organised crime gang involved in sophisticated multimillion-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.”
Investigations are ongoing according to the newspaper.