A mob that specialises in stealing top-of-the range cars for Dublin's most dangerous criminals are suspected of stealing a car that was to be used in a foiled gangland assassination.
The Crumlin-based gang is led by a 29-year-old criminal who has survived at least three attempts on his life in the past two years, and detectives have established that he works closely with two other criminals.
The three are among the top targets for the garda's Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau and Stolen Motor Vehicle Unit. They have also been investigated as part of Operation Creeper, which targeted Dublin burglary gangs.
Sources said gardai estimate the gang are stealing three cars a week.
Two firearms, ammunition and a fuel canister were found hidden in a stolen blue Nissan Pulsar on Casement Avenue on Saturday afternoon.
It is not known which gang had bought the stolen car from the mob or who the intended target of the planned hit was.
The car was stolen in Donaghmede two weeks earlier, and gardai have been working on the theory that it was taken by the gang led by the 29-year-old mobster who is also heavily involved in the drugs trade.
He is considered a main player in the "fishing" burglary gangs, which have been using fishing rods and other implements to snatch car keys through letterboxes and then steal vehicles.
However, it is believed he has become a gangland target because of his involvement in drugs rather than his main business of car theft.
Last month, gardai arrested a gunman in the Crumlin area who it is believed was on his way to murder the man at his apartment complex.
In December 2014, the criminal had a lucky escape when an assassin's handgun jammed when he tried to shoot him at Old County Glen in Crumlin.
He also survived a previous attempt on his life in July 2014, when a gunman tried to shoot him as he sat in a car, also in Crumlin. In March last year, he was arrested by officers investigating the gun murder of Eddie Nugent in Walkinstown a month earlier.
The Herald can also reveal that gardai are investigating the 29-year-old's "business relationship" with a 35-year-old convicted heroin dealer who has close links to gangster 'Fat' Freddie Thompson.
The 35-year-old, who was released from prison in April, has been operating a "very lucrative" illegal enterprise since getting out of jail and is being provided with expensive cars by the younger criminal's gang.
Garda investigations have established that he then breaks up the cars by taking out parts such as engines, air bags and seats which he then sells as parts to unscrupulous garages.
"Information has come in that this individual is being supplied with stolen vehicles by the car theft gang," a senior source said.
"He has been using rental units in the south of the city to break-up the cars which are then crushed and destroyed as soon as he has taken what he wants from them.
"He is determined to stay one step ahead of the law and rarely stays in the same rental unit for more than a month so as to avoid being raided. He has been mainly operating in the Tallaght and Walkinstown areas."