Border members of the Provisional IRA are said to be in a state of disarray after a huge sum of cash has apparently gone missing from one of their money-laundering fronts.
The shock over the loss of the money is said to be compounded by the fact that a young female employee, who is understood to have been 'close' but not related to one of the top criminal/IRA families, may be involved.
It is suspected, local sources said, that the money - put at just under €500,000 - went missing around the same time as the young woman, about three weeks ago.
To make matters worse for the Provos, it is also understood that a large part of the missing money belongs to one of Dublin's notorious drugs gangs.
The Sunday Independent understands that the loss of the money has not been reported to police on either side of the Border by the company or the family that runs it.
The front business is actually inside Northern Ireland but in an area close to the Border that has been described unofficially as being "very lightly policed" by members of the PSNI.
Sources have told this newspaper that a number of drugs gangs in Dublin and the Leinster area have been laundering their cash through the Provo front businesses along the Border because these are regarded as 'safe'.
No senior IRA figure has ever faced criminal prosecuted for running any of the money laundering or other IRA crime businesses in the Border area. It is this apparent lack of police and Revenue scrutiny on either side of the Border, sources said, that has been attracting the cash-rich drug gangs to launder their money through the Provo-controlled front businesses.
The family said to have been hit by the recent 'loss' owns several businesses and is also understood to have extensive property holdings on either side of the Border. Their main business is diesel 'washing' and smuggling.
One source said: "They're going mad over this. The whole country's talking about it. There was a 'creditors' meeting and they were all called to (a Border hotel) to meet the boss man. He hadn't much to say to them."
It is understood the 'boss man' of the operation is the civilian lieutenant of South Armagh's top Provo, the head of a criminal empire estimated at generating €70m in profit a year from international people, fuel and tobacco smuggling and a variety of other criminal activities.
The 'boss' is also the father of the young married man said to have been given the job of running the front business that suffered the loss.
Money-laundering has long been one of the Border IRA's central business pillars, which is why the missing money is said to be causing something close to panic.
Local sources said that as well as the cash, the company's 'legit' books are said to have also gone missing. These could prove explosive in terms of any prosecutions for money laundering, as the amounts of cash going through the business do not reflect the amounts claimed as 'assets' in the company accounts. The figure given in their company accounts is in the low six figures.
The exact amount of money missing from the business is not known, with sources saying that not even the family is aware of the exact amount due to the very large amounts of cash they are used to handling. But business sources in the Border said it would be very likely that the 'business' involved is known to handle six-figure sums at any given time.
It is said that if the family owners have to personally make up for the missing money, the aggregate loss would be 'not far off' a million euro.
Although there has been a great deal of speculation about the value of the Provos' crime empire - which Sinn Fein's opponents claim is being used partly to finance 'political' spending - well-placed sources said that it is much more than the last known 'official' estimate of €500m.
This figure was attributed to a 'Department of Justice source' in 2005. That disclosure came at a time when the government was applying pressure on Sinn Fein and the IRA in the aftermath of the December 2004 £26.5m (€36.3m) robbery of the Northern Bank and the murder of innocent man Robert McCartney in Belfast the following month.
One source who spoke to the Sunday Independent earlier this year said a 'likely' value for the IRA's financial holdings is €800m to €1bn, but this cannot be verified.
The organisation had very senior financial figures acting as advisers and is believed to have disposed of large amounts of its property portfolio in Ireland when this came under garda scrutiny around 2005-2006.
Luckily for the Provos, this was just prior to the economic collapse when property prices were still inflated. They are believed, however, to have suffered a very substantial loss with the 2008 Wall Street collapse where they were said to have had US$200m in investments.
It is also believed much of the IRA wealth is held in 'offshore' accounts and property investments in Eastern Europe and Portugal.
The Provos' business empire was under close scrutiny by the Garda's Criminal Assets Bureau up to 2005 but after the IRA issued a statement saying it had 'dumped arms' in July that year, sources said investigations were wound down.
There was one major but botched operation against the IRA business empire in the aftermath of the murder of Det Garda Adrian Donohoe in January 2013. A then 'teenage tear-away' relative of the 'royal' Provo family at the centre of the missing money is one of the suspects in the murder of the detective.
The affair is of considerable interest along the Border area due to the fact that the family involved is one of many who have become very wealthy in the years since the IRA called its ceasefire. Many of these newly wealthy 'republicans' are known for their ostentatious lifestyles. Modern mansions have sprung up in what were formerly known as Provo strongholds. High-end 4X4s and, for the wife, expensive saloon cars are the common form of family transport.
Many have sent children to expensive universities but other off-spring, many in their 20s and 30s, remained in the family's criminal businesses.
Common among the families is open support of Sinn Fein, despite the fact that Gerry Adams has stated many times this year that those responsible for the fuel and other illicit enterprises along the Border area are "criminals". Local sources said Adams' repeated denunciations of the Border 'criminals' has been unsettling for many of the families who have been heard openly criticising the Sinn Fein leader of 32 years.
Local sources said that when Adams turned up at an IRA commemoration in March this year and privately asked that the local families to tone down their criminality, he was told to: "F**k off."