CAB spreads net to every county with 40pc increase in targets
The Criminal Assets Bureau has spread its tentacles into every county in a nationwide drive which has resulted in a 40pc increase in targets.
The multi-agency bureau netted a record haul of assets from criminals in 2019 as it cracked down on organised crime gangs and other thugs.
The total number of targets jumped from 973 in 2018 to 1,352 this year, with the Greater Dublin Area accounting for 45pc of those under scrutiny.
Within the Dublin region, the western part of the capital is the base for 241 targets - the biggest group in the country - with 116 in Dublin north, 115 in the south of the county, 69 in the north central Garda division, 43 in south central and 17 in the east.
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Outside Dublin, each of the counties is represented with figures showing 101 in Limerick city and county, followed by Meath with 52, Kildare and Louth 51 each, Wexford 49, Cavan-Monaghan 46 and Tipperary 43.
Next on the list is Wicklow with 35 targets, Kilkenny-Carlow and Laois-Offaly with 32 each, Kerry 28, Cork city 26, Roscommon-Longford 25, Clare 23, Waterford 22, Galway 21, Donegal 17, Westmeath 16, Sligo-Leitrim 15, Cork west 13, Mayo 7 and Cork north 6. Forty targets are outside the Republic.
The CAB played a major support role in Operation Thor, the Garda drive against burglary gangs.
The head of CAB, Det Chief Supt Pat Clavin, said: "We used the powers available to us under the Proceeds of Crime Act to seize the assets as well as pursue the suspects for tax and social welfare issues."
Officers were involved in a total of 56 operations this year with the number of searches for each investigation varying from one to more than 20.
The operations figure compared with a total of 34 in 2018.
Leading figures in the main burglary gangs, who terrorised vulnerable victims in their homes across the country for several years, were again a key focus for the CAB as well as suspected members of gangs who scammed hundreds of householders into paying large sums of cash for defective repair work.
The bureau also continued its pursuit of key players in organised crime gangs, including Graham 'The Wig' Whelan, who was arrested in a suspected money laundering investigation as officers seized high-end vehicles, designer clothing and jewellery, as well as documentation relating to cash held in bank accounts.
Whelan was a close friend of David Byrne, who was shot dead in the Regency Hotel in Dublin in February 2016. He was jailed for six years for possession of ecstasy and cocaine at a hotel in Dublin city centre in 2000 and later became regarded as a key associate in the Kinahan crime cartel.
The CAB and the Garda's drugs and organised crime bureau also targeted other alleged Kinahan associates, including a man regarded as a key cartel member in the UK.
Other top figures in the crosshairs were members of feuding gangs in west and north Dublin and in Drogheda, while another operation focused on a gang involved in a spate of ATM robberies close to the Border.
The bureau won an important High Court challenge in January when Ms Justice Carmel Stewart said a house in Finglas, an apartment in Bulgaria and about €72,000 in cash were the proceeds of crime and beneficially owned by Jason Boyle, who denies he is involved in drug trafficking.
Boyle was handed a 10-year prison sentence in the UK in 2004 for armed robbery.
In October, the High Court ruled in favour of the CAB after it seized Cheltenham Festival-winning racehorse Labaik, and stated the purchase of a 90pc stake in the horse by John Boylan, from Rathcoole, Co Dublin, was made with the proceeds of crime.
Other targets included criminals involved in fraud, stolen vehicles, "ghost" insurance brokerage, illegal cryptocurrency transactions, cigarettes, alcohol and people smuggling, extortion and intimidation.
The value of assets seized this year was a record €62m, from 27 new cases but mainly as the result of a haul of Bitcoin worth more than €50m.