GARDAI have smashed a plan by the New IRA alliance to mount a major fundraising operation with fake €50 notes.
Senior officers said the dissident terrorists were producing "very sophisticated" counterfeit notes at a printing press in Co Meath. And they believed the renegade republicans were well advanced with their scheme to infiltrate the money market with a large quantity of forged "fifties".
A lengthy garda undercover operation thwarted their bid to raise badly needed cash to fund terrorist activity in Northern Ireland. And it also led to the arrest of two prime dissident suspects in Dublin as well as a man alleged to have provided the counterfeit printing expertise to the gang.
Last night three men were being held for questioning – two at the Bridewell garda station and one in Mountjoy station in Dublin's north inner city – under section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act. They can be held without charge for three days.
The garda operation was led by the Special Branch with back-up from the national surveillance unit.
The breakthrough for the gardai came at lunchtime on Sunday when armed officers raided four homes in the north inner city and detained the three suspects, aged 47, 44 and 42, at the North Circular Road.
Officers also swooped on a rented commercial unit between Clonee and Summerhill in Co Meath and found where the counterfeit notes were being produced.
They seized €20,000 in counterfeit cash, in mainly €50 notes, as well as a printing press and other equipment used to make the forgeries.
One senior officer told the Irish Independent: "They had all they needed to manufacture good quality forgeries but this intervention was made at the right time to prevent a large haul being circulated on the streets."
Gardai believe the printing operation had been under way for some time and that a small quantity of the forged notes had already been in use on the streets. But officers think the dissidents were on the brink of stepping up their output when the raid was launched.
They are satisfied that the owner of the premises had no involvement in the printing operation and was not aware of its use.
The arrests followed an investigation by the Special Branch which lasted for more than a year.
The New IRA alliance was formed in the summer of 2012 when four established dissident groups came together.