Cash, cars, livestock and homes worth €7m seized - Criminals reeling as CAB targets gangs behind rural raids

Image: Gardai
Image: Gardai
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

A FRESH emphasis on the organised crime and travelling gangs responsible for the nationwide burglary spree of the past few years has been a major factor in a 10-fold increase in the value of seizures by the Criminal Assets Bureau.

One hundred assets frozen by the courts under the Proceeds of Crime Act as a result of bureau activities in 2017 were valued at more than €7m.

This compared with a total value of €643,000 for assets seized the previous year.

A breakdown of the seizures includes cash worth €3.5m, property valued at €2.4m, €839,000 of vehicles, jewellery worth €126,000 and livestock valued at €29,600.

The details contained in the bureau’s annual report showed a record figure of 28 new investigations initiated last year, while the number of new cases taken to the courts under section 2 of the legislation also jumped significantly, from 36 to 100.

Read also: Farmer has 125 cattle seized by CAB due to massive tax bill

Activity by the bureau in all categories is on the increase, with tax collected by Revenue officers attached to the unit up from €2.1m to €2.37m and social welfare overpayments recovered by seconded social welfare officials rising from €297,000 to €319,000.

In the report, bureau head Det Chief Supt Pat Clavin said 28 new applications were brought before the High Court under the Proceeds of Crime legislation, compared with 13 in 2016, and the majority of those arose from the profits of drug trafficking.

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But the bureau’s involvement in Operation Thor resulted in a crackdown on the gangs suspected of being behind burglaries and robberies in rural areas of the country. One of the primary investigations focused on a gang based in Waterford and Wexford, which was suspected of carrying out a string of burglaries, including some involving violence, both within the State and on the European mainland.

The bureau has already seized three high-end-value cars from suspected gang members and other proceedings are in the pipeline.

The bureau also played a key role in tackling the organised crime gangs based in the Dublin area, with a particular emphasis on those regarded as ‘mid-level’ players.

Six gardaí and a sergeant from the new Garda special crime task force were seconded to the bureau to help target and trace assets generated by members of those gangs.

A total of 53 targets were identified in 2017 and investigations by the crime task force members pushed the number to 109 by the end of the year.

The nationwide remit of the bureau has been strengthened by an unprecedented number of trained asset profilers around the country, involving 259 gardaí, 15 customs officials and five Employment and Social Protection department staff.

Earlier seizures of top-end vehicles have forced criminals to attempt to reduce their profile and avoid detection by purchasing cheaper cars – but this has not deterred the bureau.

Last year’s vehicle seizures ranged from Yamaha and

Kawasaki motorcycles to dune buggies, as well as Mercedes, Audi, Citroen, BMW, Lexus and Volkswagen Golf cars.

Even properties still in negative equity are being seized as bureau policy is designed to ensure “that those involved in serious organised crime are not put in the advantageous position of being able to remain in the property and benefit from the proceeds of crime”.

Meanwhile, the bureau has been recognised internationally as a world leader in the seizure, investigation and forfeiture of crypto currencies and its assistance has been sought by other law enforcement agencies.

So far, it has received the conversion of forfeited bitcoins to the value of €39,500, while other amounts of crypto currencies are currently subject to ongoing investigations or High Court proceedings.

Online Editors