Major taxi scam uncovered as 180 non-EU nationals obtain licences despite having no legal status in Ireland
Gardaí have uncovered evidence of a major scam in which 180 non-EU nationals obtained taxi licences using fraudulent PSV applications despite having no legal status in this country.
The Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) searched several residential addresses across Dublin where it is suspected false documentation, including SPSV applications, are being produced as part of a massive immigration fraud.
The day of action was part of Operation Vantage, a four year-long enquiry by GNIB which has so far uncovered widespread immigration fraud which is generating millions for organised crime gangs.
The taxi scam came to light after four taxi drivers, all non-EU nationals, were discovered driving taxis with licences obtained through fraudulent SPSV licence applications.
Two of the drivers have been deported and the others are currently awaiting deportation. In one case an illegal immigrant from the Indian sub-continent, who had no qualifications to drive a taxi, was discovered to be using the identity of another non-EU national who had obtained EU Treaty Rights.
Officials from the Carriage Office, the National Transport Authority and the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) are also involved in the ongoing operation which has so far identified 180 individuals whose immigration status is being investigated by GNIB.
A major part of the enquiry will focus on how these individuals managed to get through the taxi licensing system and obtain SPSV driver licences which permits the holder to drive a taxi, hackney or limousine
The investigation raises serious questions surrounding the integrity of the system which is designed to ensure strict standards by which passengers are transported safely by fully qualified drivers.
It is understood that officers uncovered a significant amount of evidence in the searches which took place at addresses in Dublin's North inner-city, Lucan and Palmerstown that comes under the Theft and Fraudulent Offences Act.
Specifically it involves the production of fraudulent applications for EU Treaty Rights and SPSV licences. It is understood that the haul included falsely produced utility bills and wages slips.
Since it was launched, Operation Vantage has also smashed a major international criminal conspiracy which organised at least 2000 fake registry office marriages here between non-EU males and non-Irish EU females who were paid to participate in the sham nuptials.
Amongst those identified in the operation were two ISIS supporters and a number of sex offenders all of whom were subsequently deported.
GNIB also smashed a UK-based gang which created a complex network of over 1200 bogus Irish registered companies that were used to gain EU residency rights for bogus asylum seekers.
It is suspected that the scam has helped thousands of non-EU nationals mostly from the Indian sub-continent - India, Pakistan and Afghanistan - to gain EU residency rights in order to bypass UK domestic immigration laws in the run-up to Brexit.
In a statement released this evening, Robert Troy, Fianna Fáil's spokesperson on transport, said this issue exposes a "severe weakness" in the system for processing taxi licences.
He questioned the role of the National Transport Authority - but the NTA has since clarified that the licensing of taxi drivers falls under the remit of An Garda Siochana.