Three suspected members of the notorious military-trained international 'Hole in the Roof gang' remained in garda custody last night, where they were being questioned about a €250,000 jewellery heist during Storm Emma - as well as two other burglaries in the same county on the same night.
Garda investigations have established the Romanian gang is linked to 100 burglaries in Ireland, which have netted an estimated €2m of goods.
The Herald can reveal that detectives have established that the criminals are wanted for similar crimes across Europe, including in Italy and Norway.
Two 27-year-old men and a 31-year-old man are still being questioned in three separate midlands garda stations over the massive theft of €250,000 in jewellery at Park Jewellers in the Golden Island Shopping Centre, Athlone, on the night of Friday, March 2 - at the height of Storm Emma.
The prolific gang is also suspected of robbing a jewellery shop in Mullingar and a store in Glasson, Co Westmeath, on the same night.
A DNA profile taken from one of the suspects has been linked to separate burglaries that took place in Co Donegal and Co Offaly in the past year.
"This is a military-trained international crime gang and charges against these suspects are very likely later in the week," a senior source said last night.
"Not only have gardai gathered massive evidence against them for the Athlone robbery and the two others that occurred on the Storm Emma night, detectives have now linked this crew to 100 other burglaries, which netted the criminals an estimated €2m."
In the €250,000 Athlone jewellery heist, the raiders cut a hole in the shopping centre roof and removed CCTV footage during the burglary, which was not discovered until the morning of Saturday, March 3.
Last Friday, as part of a major intelligence-led operation, gardai raided a house at a rural location on the Co Laois/Tipperary border.
Officers arrested the suspected gang members and recovered the haul of stolen jewellery.
Investigators believe it was to be smuggled out of the country.
The Herald first revealed in 2015 that there was a major garda investigation into the gang after service stations were targeted in localities as diverse as Fermoy, in Co Cork, and Finglas, in north Dublin.
Before this month's Co Westmeath raid, the gang was suspected of being behind a nationwide crime spree that has netted it more than €1m in stolen cash and cigarettes.
The gang is suspected of entering Ireland from mainland Europe via our ports and airports, to target specific businesses and homes before fleeing the country again - only to return weeks later.