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Saturday 20 January 2018

Exclusive: Criminal Assets Bureau to hit rural crime gangs with massive tax bill

Criminal Assets Bureau moves to confiscate properties

Image: Gardai
Image: Gardai
Seamus Sherlock.
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

The Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) is demanding payments of over €4m in outstanding taxes from members of gangs suspected of being responsible for scores of burglaries and thefts nationwide.

This is the latest move by the CAB against gangs blamed for much of the crime wave that terrorised rural communities in the past few years.

The bid by the Bureau to hit gangs in the pocket comes as farmers have been warned to improve security on farms after a fresh spate of robberies.

The Bureau has already served the tax demands and is attempting to confiscate properties in part payment.

This follows a previous operation that netted almost €1m through a combination of the Proceeds of Crime legislation and action by the Revenue authorities and the Department of Social Protection.

Many of those being hit were key targets for Operation Thor which was set up in November 2015 and has resulted in a drop of 32pc in residential burglaries.

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CAB is involved in 20 separate inquiries into the main gangs who are setting up surveillance to select likely victims and then carrying out burglaries at their homes or premises.

Fianna Fáil's agriculture spokesman Charlie McConalogue said a more visible garda presence was vital and the role of community gardaí was key. "That is crucial in gathering intelligence as well as having the fingers on the pulse of what is happening," he said, adding community gardaí have been hard-hit by staffing pressures.

A recent survey from the ICSA and Waterford Institute of Technology that found two thirds of farming families have been impacted by crime.

The ICSA's Seamus Sherlock said many thefts were "opportunistic" and urged farmers to ensure proper security was in place with all sheds locked during the busy silage time.

CAB is using local gardaí and specialist units to build on successes previously achieved as a result of an operation codenamed 'Pelican' which targeted a gang in south county Dublin.

This investigation has uncovered a network of accounts containing almost €1m in cash which is believed to have been used to launder the proceeds of burglaries and theft- related offences throughout the country.

The CAB is also seeking to seize properties from another gang which is facing a tax debt of more than €2m.

And a similar amount is being sought from a separate south Dublin gang for tax while a large number of vehicles have been confiscated from its members.

Gangs based in counties Laois, Wexford and Mayo are also being pursued by the CAB, arising out of garda probes into burglaries and/or drug trafficking.


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