GARDAI were last night investigating how 10 laptops were stolen from the headquarters of the Revenue's fraud and tax evasion section.
Internal inquiries were also being carried out into an embarrassing security breach that resulted in three men breaking into the building and then walking to the second floor without being spotted.
The break-in took place at the Revenue Commissioners' offices at Ashtown Gate on the Navan Road in Dublin on Thursday.
Three men forced their way in through a fire emergency door at the side of the building at around 7.15pm.
The offices are patrolled by security guards and monitored by surveillance cameras.
Staff employed at Ashtown Gate include officials from the investigations and prosecutions division, which co-ordinates all Revenue prosecution activity, dealing particularly with serious cases of fraud and tax evasion.
The burglars managed to make their way unnoticed up to the second floor where they used cutting equipment to remove 10 laptops that had been chained and padlocked to desks.
The gang managed to escape with the laptops before the break-in was spotted.
Gardai at Blanchardstown were alerted and last night officers were examining footage from the security cameras.
A Revenue spokesman said all of their laptops were encrypted, using a leading brand that complied with the highest international security certifications.
The spokesman added: "Revenue contacted the office of the Data Protection Commissioner first thing this morning to report the incident and will be working with the commissioner's office in the coming days."
Gardai are trying to determine if anything else was taken and are also interviewing officials to compile a dossier of the information contained on the laptops. They are particularly anxious to find out if the laptops contained any sensitive information about serious criminal prosecutions.
Officers said it was too early to state whether the theft was a result of a random break-in or was specifically aimed at laptops the criminals believed could be of use to them.
Revenue said its officials were providing full co-operation with the garda investigation and were also carrying out their own inquiries.
Gardai at Blanchardstown appealed to anyone who was in the Ashtown Gate area at the time of the incident, or who noticed anybody acting suspiciously nearby, to contact them at the station or on the confidential line at 1800 666111.