Gardai seize 14 stolen vehicles as part of a carjack mob probe
GARDAI have struck a major blow against a criminal gang suspected of stealing vans in the UK and selling them in Ireland.
Searches led by officers from Granard, Co Longford on Monday uncovered 13 Ford Transit vans and one caravan.
Independent.ie has learned that the seizures in Longford, Cavan and South Dublin were targeting a traveller gang and their associates under Operation Butler.
The criminal outfit are believed to be behind a sophisticated scam where badly damaged vehicles are bought for scrap in the UK.
A senior source explained that members of the gang then steal a similar car or van and clone the number plates of the damaged vehicle onto it before importing them into Ireland with the bogus documentation.
Officers suspect that the gang is also ‘clocking’ the mileage on vehicles in a bid to get a better price from customers.
A senior source explained: “This is a local criminal gang based around a family and their associates.
"They have been running this multi-million euro operation for some time and it is for this reason that authorities moved.”
Gardai from the Granard and Longford districts were joined on Monday afternoon by officers from Department of Social Welfare and officers from Revenue Custom and Excise at six simultaneous raids on Monday afternoon.
Members of the Gardai Stolen Motor Vehicle Investigation Unit (SMVIU) are also involved in Operation Butler.
In total 60 officers took part in the simultaneous searches at six different premises. Three commercial premises, believed to be garages and car dealerships, were searched in Granard and Longford.
A considerable amount of documents, laptops, mobile phones and other supporting information was seized as part of Operation Butler. A number of engines were also taken for examination.
A garda spokeswoman explained that during the course of the searches a total of 14 suspected stolen vehicles were seized, they consisted of 12 Ford transit vans, one Ford camper van and one caravan.
The vehicles include Ford Transit flatbed vans and minibuses. The vans range in age from 2010 to 2014.
The mileage had been altered on a number of the vehicles in order to drive up the price.
No arrests were made during Monday’s raids but further operations targeting the gang are expected in the coming months.
This is the second raid targeting the gang. Earlier this year gardai seized six vehicles from the owners.
The vehicles are being advertised on DoneDeal.ie, carzone.ie and other websites.
And even while gardai were searching a premises in Granard on Monday prospective customers were asking about the vehicles.
A senior source explained: "I don't know whether it is greed or naivety but people were coming in and asking to buy vehicles they had seen online while gardai were swarming around the place on Monday."
Last week it was revealed that 6,128 vehicles were stolen in 2015. A total of 3,838 (63pc) were recovered.