Local authorities are being urged to beef up their financial security after international criminals attempted to defraud Meath County Council of €4.3m and have the money transferred to Hong Kong.
An investigation is underway after funds were transferred in a sophisticated online scam which involved criminals impersonating the council’s chief executive.
It is understood criminals contacted a staff member pretending to be council CEO Jackie Maguire and requested the transfer of €4.3m to a Hong Kong account.
Gardaí managed to freeze the transfer while authorities here and in Hong Kong check details.
Local authorities are now being urged to check their cybersecurity details.
The Department of Environment yesterday told the Irish Examiner that a report from Meath County Council on the scam was expected now to be requested.
“On foot of that, guidance will be given to local authorities where necessary,” a department spokesman said.
Gardaí say the council was several weeks ago a victim of ‘CEO fraud’, where large sums are transferred to criminals on foot of a bogus order made in the name of a company chief executive.
In a statement, Meath County Council said its bank had been alerted to the scam and gardaí were then alerted who provided assistance with the help of Interpol.
“The funds have been secured and the matter is now the subject of criminal investigations, and legal proceedings, in Ireland and abroad.
“Meath County Council has confirmed that it has taken legal proceedings in Hong Kong and that the funds have been secured on foot of a court order obtained by Meath County Council.
“These legal proceeding will continue and will enable the return of all funds to the council.”
Fianna Fáil TD Thomas Byrne said there may be some concern about how long the money had been in the Hong Kong bank and whether this had affected the funding of local services.
“I will be seeking assurances that cyber security procedures within Meath County Council are at their highest possible level,” he said. “I will also be looking for assurances that vital public services are not at risk.”