Specialist gang is stealing vehicles from UK
Gardaí have launched a major international investigation into the activities of an organised crime gang which specialises in the theft and sale of commercial vehicles between the UK and Ireland.
Officers seized 14 vans and camper vans in a series of pre-planned swoops.
The vehicles were recovered when gardaí searched seven locations in Granard and Longford as part of a joint operation involving local gardaí and Scotland Yard's Stolen Car Squad.
The Irish Independent has learned that most of the vehicles have been confirmed as stolen from several locations in England - including Manchester and London.
According to senior sources, the operation has uncovered a "major international criminal racket" and further raids are being planned.
Investigators believe that the crime gang has been using a network of thieves across the UK to specifically steal commercial vans and campers. The vehicles were then transported to Ireland for storage at a number of locations in Longford for resale to unsuspecting buyers here.
Gardaí are expected to broaden their search operation to include other Midland counties where members of the gang have known associates and families.
As a result of Monday's seizures, local gardaí have now called in the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) and the Garda Stolen Car Squad in Dublin.
"This is a major international criminal racket, and the value of what has been seized so far is at least €150,000 - but this is only the beginning," a security source told the Irish Independent last night.
"The intelligence is worth many times more than that figure. Most of the vehicles seized so far have been confirmed as having been stolen in the UK, while the details of the remainder are still being cross-referenced with Scotland Yard to confirm that they are also stolen.
"This operation began as a result of information received from Scotland Yard's Stolen Car Squad. It has now mushroomed into a major international investigation which requires the assistance of CAB and other national units.
"An Irish gang has been operating a network which specialises in the theft of vans across the UK," the source added.
Detectives from Longford are working with UK colleagues to identify those involved in the operation.