Crackdown on illegal abattoirs
Garda raids target border-based cattle rustling gangs
Published 29/03/2016 | 02:30
Gardai have raided a series of illegal abattoirs as they crack down on a criminal gang suspected of organising the latest outbreak of cattle rustling in the Border counties.
The raids are part of a co-ordinated operation with the PSNI and gardai are being backed up in their inquiries by members of the Department of Agriculture's special investigations unit and officials from the Food Safety Authority.
Two of the suspected abattoirs were discovered in unhygienic sheds in the Swanlinbar and Belturbet areas of county Cavan where the cattle were being killed before the meat was sold off to butchers in the Border region.
Half a dozen incidents of rustling have been reported to the gardai in counties Monaghan and Cavan over the past eight weeks and gardai have been trying to trace the stolen cattle with the help of DNA data through the department.
Other incidents are under investigation by the PSNI in counties Armagh and Tyrone.
Gardai, who have set up an investigation base at Monaghan station, say they believe some of the rustlers may have been involved in or have links to a gang involved in previous robberies in the region in the past few years.
One officer told the Farming Independent: "We are pursuing a number of leads on both sides of the Border and further searches and raids are being planned".
The rustlers are known to be connected to a legitimate meat supplier to help them dispose of the stolen animals and also to a licensed haulier to organise transportation after the thefts.
Revenue officials are currently carrying out an audit of the suspected gang leader's financial affairs while officers from the Criminal Assets Bureau are keeping a close watch on developments in those inquiries.
Gardai believe that some of those behind the rustling are also involved in cross-Border smuggling and fuel laundering while a small group have also been connected to the theft of beer kegs from pubs and their subsequent sale for smelting.
Apart from the dedicated investigation based at Monaghan, gardai along the Border are also gathering intelligence on the rustlers through Operation Thor, which was set up last November to tackle burglaries nationwide.
IFA rural crime prevention executive Colin Connolly said it was largely a "Border issue". He urged rural communities to be mindful of any unusual movements of cattle lorries at night and report them to the gardai.