Armed gardaí swoop on homes of brothers wanted over migrant truck deaths
Vehicles seized but pair escape arrest over lack of warrant
Two brothers who English police want to question over the deaths of 39 people in the back of a truck in Essex last month were present in their Co Monaghan homes yesterday when armed gardaí raided the properties as part of a Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) investigation.
Ronan Hughes (40) and his brother Christopher (34) are wanted on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking by Essex Police, but the UK authorities have not obtained European arrest warrants for the pair.
The brothers were present at their homes in Tyholland during the raid and senior sources say the duo were unfazed about the huge Garda operation which started at around 6am.
Gardaí were unable to arrest the brothers as they have not received a warrant from English police.
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"They were very calm. They showed no concern despite what the English police have said about them," a senior source said.
"These lads are not on the run, they are not in hiding - they are living their life and operating their jobs as they always have.
"There is no arrest warrant for them here and they were not bothered that gardaí were searching their house at all - it was an attitude of 'if there is something illegal here, find it'."
Nothing illegal was found at the properties linked to the Hughes brothers but a number of vehicles were seized including a Mitsubishi SUV registered to Mo Robinson - the Co Armagh truck driver already charged with 39 counts of manslaughter in Essex.
Police claim Robinson drove the cab of the truck to the English port of Purfleet, where it collected the trailer unit, which had arrived by ferry from Zeebrugge port in Belgium.
Also seized during the searches were a 192-registered X5 BMW M Sport, a 2016 X5 BMW, a 2014 2.8-litre VW transporter crew cab, financial documents and records and electronic devices as well as sums of €1,400, $900 (€815) and £600 (€695)in cash.
Gardaí said in a statement that a number of restraining orders relating to accounts in financial institutions had been made by a district court judge under money laundering and terrorist financing legislation.
Last Tuesday, CAB officers detained a Northern Ireland-registered tractor unit and curtain-side trailer at Dublin Port.
The CAB also detained a Bulgarian-registered tractor unit and curtain-side trailer at the same time.
Senior sources said last night that gardaí investigating the alleged smuggling gang observed multiple vehicles which had been registered in the Eastern European country.
Meanwhile, British police have released on bail three other people they had arrested in connection with their investigation, pending further inquiries.
In Dublin, a 22-year-old man is facing extradition proceedings to bring him to the UK to face charges of manslaughter.
Eight people have been arrested by police in Vietnam on suspicion of being involved in human smuggling.
The CAB is also securing orders from a district court judge to freeze slightly more than €200,000 being held in 19 bank and credit union accounts.
Gardaí said the restraining orders in respect of the financial institutions were made under the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act, 2010.
No arrests were made yesterday but CAB inquiries are continuing and will include a forensic examination of the documentation, records and electronic devices seized.
The CAB operation had been ongoing for several months.
The specialist unit seized the vehicles and seized and froze cash under laws that state there is evidence to suggest their assets are the proceeds of crime.
The CAB was backed up in the dawn raids by the Emergency Response Unit (ERU), the stolen motor vehicle investigation unit, Revenue and Customs and the dog unit.
The Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) was also involved.
No stolen vehicles were recovered in the operation.