Friday 27 April 2018

Justice after two-year probe - but crime boss still on loose

'Ram-type raids on pharmacies in rural towns in Tipperary and Cork led detectives to suspect they were dealing with a highly organised, very skilled gang that targeted only high-value items after careful reconnaissance' (stock photo)
'Ram-type raids on pharmacies in rural towns in Tipperary and Cork led detectives to suspect they were dealing with a highly organised, very skilled gang that targeted only high-value items after careful reconnaissance' (stock photo)
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

The mastermind of the East European ram-raid gang that terrorised rural business owners across Munster remains at large.

The gang inflicted massive losses through a military-style series of smash-and-grab raids on business premises in Cork, Tipperary and Limerick.

However, the East European crime gang's boss has never been charged.

The Garda investigation into what was described as "a highly sophisticated, professional and skilled criminal outfit" remains ongoing.

The revelation came as it emerged famous Parisian fashion house Chanel offered the first inkling that gardaí weren't dealing with ordinary thieves.

Ram-type raids on pharmacies in rural towns in Tipperary and Cork led detectives to suspect they were dealing with a highly organised, very skilled gang that targeted only high-value items after careful reconnaissance.

It was the sheer value of high-end Chanel goods taken from pharmacies in Kinsale, Co Cork, and Cahir, Co Tipperary, that convinced detectives they were dealing with a highly professional steal-to-order gang. Gardaí got their first stroke of good luck when an old Skoda, destined to be used by the gang for a ram-raid, broke down outside Belgooly in Cork.

It yielded vital clues to investigating detectives.

CCTV footage showed the gang were willing to flee the robbery scenes at recklessly high speeds and that they appeared to have the raids scheduled to perfection to avoid Garda response times.

Security footage showed the gang members wearing masks and using forehead-mounted flash-lights.

Each gang member had a watch and repeatedly checked the time during the raid to ensure they left the premises within six minutes - well within the average Garda response time for store alarms.

All gang members wore black, military-style fatigues.

So concerned were Garda chiefs at the threat posed by the East European gang to businesses in rural towns across Munster that a special team was set up under Detective Inspector Joe Moore.

The Cork division led a team including Det Garda Michael Brosnan and Det Garda Ailish Murphy which co-ordinated with detectives in Tipperary, Waterford and Limerick.

Information was even being pooled with Interpol, Europol and police in the Baltic States.

The Garda investigation would ultimately take two years but it achieved critical breakthroughs when they received information the stolen goods were being shipped to Eastern Europe - and that the gang was using heavily modified cars for its 'smash-and-grab' tactics.

Irish Independent

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