CAB targets assets of major burglary suspects
The kingpins in the travelling gangs that are behind a wave of burglaries and robberies across the State are now top of the target list for the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB).
The multi-agency organisation is focusing on half a dozen gangs, who are believed to be responsible for a large portion of the attacks that have terrorised rural and urban communities.
The bulk of the members of the targeted gangs operate out of bases located in south and west Dublin. Associates live in the Longford-Westmeath area, where the criminals have been investing their profits from the burglaries and robberies in farmland and industrial premises that can be bought cheaply since the recession.
A large number of the purchases involve payment in cash, but others involve mortgages, which are then paid back to the financial institutions in regular lodgements, usually of below €10,000, to avoid arousing suspicion. Both methods are being employed by the gangs to help them launder money.
Officers from the Criminal Assets Bureau, which is led by Det Chief Supt Eugene Corcoran, say they are examining a dossier on purchases of land parcels and industrial units for sums ranging from between €80,000 to €100,000 in several counties, including Waterford and Wexford.
But they are also looking at the involvement of several professional figures, including solicitors, who help streamline the transactions for the gangs.
Officers believe the burglars and thieves have been exploiting the property market and availing of the post-recession opportunities to snap up bargains with ready cash.
The targeted gangs have widened the scope of their nightly crime sprees, using the improved national road network to escape after the burglaries, to include robberies from filling stations and other retail outlets.
The criminals are becoming increasingly violent and using diggers and JCBs at night to gain access to large sums of cash by ripping ATMs off walls.
Many of the properties have been listed in the names of family members and associates of the criminals in a bid to prevent detection by the authorities. But the bureau is carefully building up a list of assets that could be seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act, and have already taken 10 vehicles from one gang.
The gangsters attempt to stay under the radar of the bureau by driving vehicles that can be bought cheaply and rely on stolen high-powered cars for their escape after a spree - that could have included victims in three counties - before returning to Dublin in the early hours.
Officers are carrying out their inquiries alongside local Garda personnel and anti-crime operations run by other national units, including Operation Thor, which was launched last month by Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan.
Many of the cases on the bureau's books have an international dimension. Also under the spotlight is a Co Limerick-based gang, which is at the centre of tax evasion inquiries as a result of involvement in criminal activities overseas. Their suspected crimes range from the sale of stolen rhino horns and artefacts to selling counterfeit goods from China, putting them on the market in France, Germany and other countries.
Bureau officers are also taking a close look at top Irish criminals, who have been taking advantage of the more favourable English legislation to escape from bankruptcy.
These include a major drug dealer, originally from Dublin but in recent years based in north Kildare, where his associates started a campaign of intimidation earlier this year against a group of gardaí following a number of successes against the gang.