Nine men held after garda swoop on key crime suspects
GARDAI were questioning nine men last night after a major operation against gangland crime in the west of the country.
A series of searches and seizures was part of an eight-month investigation aimed at bringing criminal charges against key suspects under the new anti-gangland legislation.
The suspects were being questioned about their alleged involvement in directing and participating in organised criminal activity.
The new crimes carry penalties of up to life imprisonment.
Twenty premises, including homes and the offices of two firms of solicitors -- in Galway city and county -- were raided in the early-morning swoop.
Gardai seized four vehicles, mobile telephones, computers and a large volume of documentation, and they were taken away for detailed forensic examination. A mobile phone was also seized in a related search of a cell at Mountjoy Prison yesterday morning.
The nine suspects, ranging in age from their early 20s to early 30s, were being held in garda stations in Galway city, Gort, Loughrea, Tuam and Ballinasloe.
They were being detained under section 50 of the Criminal Justice Act 2007, which allows gardai to hold them without charge for up to seven days.
Gardai believe the operation, codenamed Foolscap, has resulted in smashing the biggest drugs and organised crime gang in the west.
Foolscap began in October and a number of suspects could face serious criminal charges if the Director of Public Prosecutions decides that they should be brought to court in the coming days.
The main targets of the operation were two brothers from a well-known crime family based in Galway city.
They were described by gardai as being "hands off" and allegedly intimidated others to carry out their instructions.
The gang, which has links to drug-dealing families in Limerick and Sligo, has allegedly controlled the Galway drugs scene for almost a decade and the two brothers have become the top priority for detectives fighting the drugs war in the region.
The two brothers allegedly controlled the supply and distribution of drugs from a base in a council housing estate, and were ruthless in dealing with anyone who owed a debt.
Gardai believe they were behind a number of shootings and beatings and that related crimes, including cash-in- transit robberies and burglaries, were carried out as a result of the influence of the family 'boss'.