Gardai turn the screw on major gangland figures
MAJOR criminals will be the target of more co-ordinated garda operations after raids yesterday on key crime figures in five counties.
Garda chiefs want to tackle key criminals through the use of both specialist units and local officers, using anti-gangland legislation to bring charges against the main targets.
Special intelligence-gathering operations have already pinpointed the prime figures, paving the way for further swoops around the country.
Last night, 12 men and a woman were being questioned by gardai under the legislation, which allows suspects to be detained without charge for up to seven days.
Two others held in the swoop were already wanted on warrants and one appeared before the courts while the other was released on bail.
The garda operation, which involved more than 300 personnel, concentrated mainly on suspected members of a Dublin north-inner-city gang, which has been involved in a deadly feud over the past four years.
Since the feud erupted in 2006 in the inner city and in north Co Dublin, four men have been murdered. The gang is based mainly around a family living in the Oriel Street/Sheriff Street/East Wall area but also has links with criminals operating outside the capital.
Apart from the feud, which involved shootings and pipebomb attacks, gang members are also alleged to have been heavily linked to drug trafficking and armed robberies.
Officers carried out 33 searches of homes and offices of professional firms in inner-city Dublin as well as in Cork city; Ballyconnell, Co Cavan; Gorey, Co Wexford; and Kildare, in an operation co-ordinated by Chief Supt Pat Leahy of Store Street garda station in Dublin.
In Cork, gardai seized €216,000 worth of cannabis after stopping a couple in a car yesterday afternoon.
The man and woman, in their 30s and from Passage West, were stopped on the South Ring Road. A search of their vehicle revealed 17kg of cannabis.
The swoops followed a year-long investigation into the activities of the gang by a dedicated team, Chief Supt Leahy disclosed yesterday.
"Our focus was on organised criminal activity in the north inner city, with the intention of stamping it out. We gathered a lot of material during the searches and this will help our inquiries," he said.
Gardai seized documents, computer files, laptops, mobile phones and bank records for detailed forensic examination.
Ten months ago, officers profiled the main targets of the operation and then passed on their files to the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB). Yesterday's operation brought together members of the CAB, the Emergency Response Unit, the Organised Crime Unit, Air Support Unit, Dog Unit and the Public Order Unit along with local divisional officers.
The 300-strong party gathered at garda headquarters in the Phoenix Park at 4am for a briefing, after which co-ordinated raids were carried out at 5.50am.
Those arrested range in age from 17 to 61. They were detained under section 72 of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act, 2009, on suspicion of participating in and contributing to activities intended to enhance the ability of a criminal organisation involved in serious offences.
Their arrests mean gardai can, with court permission, continue questioning them without charge until Sunday night.
The gang has been a prime target for gardai since the feud erupted and was fought largely on the side streets feeding into the heart of the nation's financial services' centre.
The feud stemmed from a row among former associates after notorious criminal Christy Griffin was accused of the rape of his partner's daughter.
Griffin (40), from Ridgewood Green, Swords, Co Dublin, was subsequently convicted of 11 counts of rape between 1993 and 2001 and was jailed for life.
He had previously been in charge of a gang that specialised in armed robberies and at one stage formed an alliance with the then leadership of the so-called Dublin brigade of the Provisional IRA.