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Sunday 24 March 2019

Secret codes stashed in hot press revealed smugglers' €100m turnover

CAB breakthrough on ledgers found stashed in hot press

The ledger was seized two years ago during a raid by CAB. (Stock picture)
The ledger was seized two years ago during a raid by CAB. (Stock picture)
Stock Picture
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

A secret coded ledger concealed in a hot press has revealed how one of Ireland's biggest cross-border crime gangs turned over a staggering €100m in seven years.

The ledger, seized two years ago during a raid by the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB), was only recently "decoded" by analysts who believe the encrypted entries represent thousands of cash transactions. Informed sources said the total value of the transactions was €100m over seven years.

The enormous profits earned by just one criminal gang has alarmed senior officers and comes as security experts warn that a hard Brexit risks increasing cross-border crime.

Noel Cunningham, president of the Association of Garda Superintendents, has previously warned more than 200 border crossings would become "crime corridors" in the event of a hard Brexit.

The CAB raided several premises linked to the crime gang last week. Sources said the raids were not linked to Brexit but they will be seen as a pre-emptive strike on the cross-border gangs that trade in everything from smuggled alcohol, cigarettes, fuel and even Viagra, the erectile dysfunction drug.

The CAB has been investigating the crime gang for several years. But the "huge scale" of the gang's operations and the vast sums of money it was dealing in only became clear when analysts 'cracked' the coded entries. "Literally, the scale of the operation was enormous," said a source.

The CAB believes that the gang has been investing the massive profits in development sites in Ireland and in the UK, and suspects that it has purchased an entire "ghost estate" in the Border region.

The empty housing estate was identified by the CAB as part of a portfolio of distressed properties it believes the gang has purchased over the past seven to eight years.

Senior sources said the housing estate is "small" and "unfinished" and is close to the Border and they believe it was purchased with the intention of completing the development before selling on the units for a significant profit.

While the impact of a hard Brexit on crime remains a serious concern in Government, the implications for the country's health service are also a worry.

The Sunday Independent has learned that the availability of vital cancer drugs and other life-saving medicines could be impacted by a no-deal Brexit.

The Government is working around-the-clock to ensure Irish patients are not affected by delays in receiving medicine in the event of Britain crashing out of the EU.

However, Ireland imports a huge range of pharmaceutical drugs from Britain and the Government is most concerned over the availability of what are known as 'just in time' medicines. These drugs are manufactured on demand due to their cost, have a short shelf-life and cannot be stockpiled.

Sunday Independent

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