An investigation has begun into a €2m money laundering fraud involving so-called money mule accounts, where people have allowed their bank accounts to be used by others for criminal activity.

The Garda National Economic Crime Bureau is examining transactions of up to €35,000 on over 200 accounts around the country.

The accounts were used for single transactions of between £5,000 and £35,000 to a financial institution abroad.

Over 1,600 of these cases were reported by the banks to gardaí last year.

A "money mule" is a person who transfers money illegally on behalf of others and allows their account to be used to transfer the proceeds of crime.

Gardaí say students are often targeted by organised crime gangs to act as mules, laundering thousands of euro through their accounts for a few hundred euro.

A new survey for Banking and Payments Federation Ireland has shown that over 40% of 18 to 24-year-olds say they would be willing to act as "money mules".

It found that 14% had already been approached for their bank details to store money.

Gardaí have again warned people not to get involved because although they may not be aware of the crime, they are complicit if they recklessly allow their account to be used to launder criminal funds.