Monday 17 December 2018

Raids leave victims traumatised and financially broke

'They have by-passed the big cities - an Eastern European criminal gang saw businesses in rural Ireland as their targets' (stock photo)
'They have by-passed the big cities - an Eastern European criminal gang saw businesses in rural Ireland as their targets' (stock photo)
Paul Williams

Paul Williams

The sheer scale, organisational sophistication and geographical spread of a racket by a professional Eastern European gang is breathtaking.

This defines the concept of organised crime and for the public it is frightening.

They have by-passed the big cities - an Eastern European criminal gang saw businesses in rural Ireland as their targets.

In each case the robbers caused extensive damage to the targeted premises and left their owners facing financial penury.

Then some of the stolen goods were quickly and efficiently smuggled out of the country and transported back to Eastern Europe.

The capture of Aurimas Petraska is also a prime example of top-class police work - when the gardaí are given the resources to do the job.

He is part of a much larger international outfit and the fact that he would not divulge who was involved with him is an illustration of how dangerous they are.

The court heard that the investigation into the gang is "ongoing" and Europol and Interpol are involved.

For each of their robberies, a considerable amount of planning was needed: first identifying the premises to be targeted, scoping out the security and the likely Garda response.

In each case the gang, dressed in black army fatigues, balaclavas and wearing headlamps, were extremely disciplined: they were in and out in each case in six minutes flat.

Petraska rented cars under false names to case the premises and used individual unregistered mobile phones which were discarded after each job.

He bought cheap hatchback cars on "done deal" which the gang then converted into battering rams by taking out the seats and using concrete blocks and timber panels so the vehicles could mount the kerb and smash through the front of the premises.

The cost of these robberies to the owners of the targeted businesses was an awful lot more than just the value of the goods stolen.

At O'Connor's Pharmacy in Kinsale, the gang got away with €50,000 worth of Chanel products after causing €10,000 worth of damage.

But the cost to the proprietor, Kieran O'Connor, was even greater. He was forced to spend €40,000 on security measures, including anti-battering ram bars, to protect his business in future.

He was also forced to rebuild his shop and, more chillingly, he now changes his routes to and from work on the advice of gardaí.

When he was nabbed, Petraska, living in Ireland since 2005, admitted that he got paid between €2,000 and €3,000 per job.

This may be a victory for the gardaí in this case but this was just one of several highly mobile and organised gangs - both domestic and foreign - who have terrorised rural Ireland by taking full advantage of our depleted police force in recent years.

These crimes leave their victims traumatised, fearful and financially broke.

Irish Independent

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