Commuter raiders fly in for heists and flee via the UK
Eastern European gang targets jewellery stores
THEY are the commuter raiders who travel here for high-value raids before leaving the country again within hours.
Gardai are probing eastern European criminals who are being blamed for a series of raids on jewellers around the country in recent months.
Detectives have already identified several suspects, including an alleged mastermind, and recovered some of the stolen jewels.
But they fear further teams of criminals will be sent here by gang bosses controlling the robberies from their base in Lithuania.
The thieves are supplied with a one-way flight and a cheaply purchased car to use in their getaway after the raid.
They are thought to flee by ferry to the UK immediately after the raids before making their way back to base. Gardai suspect that gang members living here are responsible for pinpointing businesses to target. In some cases they are even identifying individual pieces of jewellery.
The information is then fed back to the gang bosses, who organise a raid.
At least six robberies -- in Carlow, Navan, Clonmel, Carrickmacross, Trim and Maynooth -- have been linked to the commuter gang and the raids have netted jewellery with an overall value of more than €250,000.
In one recent case, the thieves arrived into Dublin airport on a flight from Vilnius on a Sunday morning, were briefed on their task by an Irish-based accomplice and then carried out the robbery on Monday morning. In some of the cases, the thieves have not even bothered to hide their faces.
A number of the robberies have involved what gardai have described as gratuitous violence, where middle-aged and elderly victims were pistol-whipped with imitation firearms and pepper sprayed.
Gardai believe they have established firm links between the robberies in Carlow, Navan, Clonmel and Carrickmacross in the past few weeks.
After a €20,000 robbery in Carlow, officers sped in pursuit of the suspects and recovered a haul of jewellery in follow-up searches in wooded areas near Kilkea, in south Kildare.
The overseas teams are also thought to have been responsible for stealing jewels worth more than €200,000 in the three other raids.
A separate group was broken up last October when gardai established a connection between two jewellery raids in Trim and Maynooth.
Gardai suspect that group could also have been involved in similar raids in other parts of Leinster.