POLICE have charged almost 30 people following a crackdown on “money mules” who keep cash in their bank accounts for criminals.

Officers from the Organised Crime and Counter Terrorism Unit arrested and charged 29 people in connection with money laundering offences in a week-long operation last month.

Police warned organised crime groups are targeting school children to become money mules and are recruiting them via social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Acting as a mule is a criminal offence which can lead to long prison sentences, warned authorities.

Police have sent a letter highlighting the dangers to Education Scotland, and have asked for it to be issued to the parents or guardians of every secondary school pupil.

Detective inspector Graeme Everest said: “People are enticed in with the belief it’s quick, easy money and assured nothing will happen to them. If you do enter into this agreement, you are breaking the law.

“It is a criminal offence and the effect on your life can be huge.

“It isn’t a victim-less crime and by laundering money gained from these victims, you are playing a part in this.”

The 29 people charged are from Lanarkshire, Dunbartonshire, Ayrshire, West Lothian and Glasgow.

They have all been reported to the procurator fiscal.

Deputy procurator fiscal for specialist casework, Andrew Laing, said: “Those who help criminals, for example by allowing their bank accounts to be used to move dirty money through the financial system, can expect to be caught by the police, reported to the Crown Office and the Procurator Fiscal Service and be prosecuted in court.”

Money mules are approached by criminals who ask them to use their bank account to hold money obtained by criminal activity, usually fraud.

The individual is then instructed to cover up the removal of large amounts of money through various measures such as buying foreign currency, expensive jewellery or high-value electrical items.

Anyone who has been approached to be involved in money mule schemes is urged to contact police on 101.