Three held as armed gardaí swoop on prolific ATM gang
Three members of the same family who are part of a prolific cross-border ATM gang have been arrested following a major Garda operation.
A man and his two nephews were last night being quizzed under anti-gangland legislation while a manhunt was ongoing for a fourth suspect.
Heavily armed members of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) swooped on the gang at 2.30am yesterday as it was targeting a cash machine with a digger in Virginia, Co Cavan.
The swoop occurred just as the digger was being prepared to rip the ATM from the wall of a building.
One suspect, a 28-year-old man from a town on the Armagh/Monaghan border, was detained at the scene.
It is understood that another gang member attempted to escape in a jeep, which he crashed. He then escaped on foot along with another suspect.
Wreckage from a dark- coloured 4x4-type vehicle was strewn across the footpath on the opposite side of the road to the cash machine.
A planned raid on a house in Moynalty, Co Meath, then led to the 61-year-old uncle of this suspect being arrested.
During a search of the house, more than €300,000 in cash was recovered which is believed to be linked to previous ATM thefts.
Then, shortly after 1pm yesterday, armed gardaí drew their firearms as they swooped on a third suspect who was found hiding in a hotel toilet close to the scene of the botched cash machine raid.
This 25-year-old and his older brother and uncle were last night being held in separate Garda stations.
All three live in the same house in a town on the Armagh/Monaghan border, while the 28-year-old is considered an "expert digger driver" known to gardaí and the PSNI.
The fourth gang associate remains at large, and gardaí believe the mob got "spooked" ahead of the botched raid after noticing Garda activity in the rural town.
The gang is suspected of carrying out up to half a dozen cross-border ATM raids this year in a spree investigated by specialist gardaí and PSNI officers.
The raiders also have links to a gang suspected of being involved in the murder of Det Gda Adrian Donohoe in Bellurgan, Co Louth, in 2013.
Gardaí in local and national units took part in yesterday's operation which had been ongoing for a number of weeks, with gardaí carrying out covert surveillance on the gang since earlier this year.
"Gardaí have been tracking this gang for months and it has been a game of cat and mouse," a senior source told the Irish Independent last night.
"There were times when the gang appeared to know they were under surveillance and you had a situation where the criminals were watching the gardaí watching them.
"However, gardaí kept on them which resulted in this successful operation."
There have been more than a dozen ATM raids on both sides of the Border since the start of the year.
Last night, officers said they had recovered a number of vehicles from the latest incident which would be forensically examined.
A showground not far from the ATM was being examined by gardaí.
One theory is that it may have been used by the gang to store a vehicle or vehicles used in the attempted raid.
The men in custody last night are linked to a crime gang that is the chief suspect in €480,000 raids in Kells which happened in the early hours of Good Friday morning last.
Two ATMs were ripped from separate banks on the town's John Street before the raiders fled in separate vehicles. The digger and tractor used in the raids were stolen earlier that night in separate counties.
The digger was taken from a field in Co Meath, while the JCB and tractor and trailer, used to transport the excavator to the scene, were stolen in the Louth area.
The same gang are the chief suspect for a €70,000 cash machine raid in Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, at around 3am on April 2.
When gardaí arrived at the AIB's ATM in the town's Main Street it had been ripped from the building and the digger's engine was still running.
An incident room has been set up in Bailieborough garda station.
Speaking yesterday, Bailieborough Superintendent Gordon Englishby said: "This remains a live investigation."
Gardaí are asking any motorists who may have dash cam footage who were traveling on the Virginia to Bailieborough Road between 1am and 3am yesterday to contact them on (042) 9654970.